One thing is true for sure. Research in Alzheimer’s Disease continues to turn up with novel ideas and media continues to eat cake before it’s even been baked. Let us break down all the wtf things that’s been said about AD this past week.
Fact: Viruses and bacteria, often Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (usually the cold sore), are found in the brain of elderly people. Consequently, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a disease of the elderly and scientists have found that viruses and bacteria, including HSV1 and others were also in the brain of those who died of AD.
Fiction: This does not mean that HSV1 and others are a significant cause of AD as of yet. News outlets have jumped onto this editorial with little understanding of how academics like to use statistical phrases to describe their findings. As Washington Post points out, “it’s all correlative” meaning this could all be just one giant coincidence. Keep in mind, 2/3 of the world already has herpes and that sort of statistic isn’t reflected with AD. What’s to say that those who develop AD become more susceptible to HSV1 and other infections? For this to be truly causative, scientists must rule out that the relationship does not go the other way and that it’s herpes that comes first. Right now, they haven’t been able to establish that. Even if they were, and this is an interesting idea to pursue – the potential for antiviral as treatment for Alzheimer’s would be revolutionary and no doubt huge in prevention of AD.
Fact: A protein type typical of Alzheimer’s Disease was found in the brains of people who back in the day had received nerve-tissue grafts from cadavers and died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Fiction: It is literally still impossible to spread AD like the flu. Alzheimer’s Disease and it’s proteins can’t be caught by touching or caring for someone with AD. Of course, if the above fiction turns out to be true, then it may become possible to catch it from herpes. Nonetheless, what this study cautioned was the possibility of transferring AD proteins to another via contaminated surgical equipments. Again, no causative relationship was found – only hints of a possibility. Pierluigi Nicotera, head of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Disesases in Bonn emphasies that “Nothing is proven yet”. Note also the conflict of interest in which the experts pushing for protein decontamination processes have a stake in a protein decontamination product. Note also, cadavers are no longer used for anything other than to look at by poor medical students. Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK says, “Current measures in place to limit contamination with the prion protein and minimize CJD risk from hospital procedures are very rigorous and the risk of developing CJD from surgical contamination is extremely low.” Ergo, any hypothetical risk of AD contamination would also be moot.