“Gum disease bug could play ‘central role’ in development of Alzheimer’s,” The Independent reported last week.
The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still debated. Most scientists think it is likely to be down to a combination of factors, including your genes and lifestyle.
But some believe it may be caused by an infectious disease and have been investigating bacteria called porphyromonas gingivalis (P. gingivalis) which is known to trigger gum disease (gingivitis).
Doctors have observed that gingivitis is more common among people with Alzheimer’s disease, although that could be because these people find dental hygiene more challenging.
A team of researchers has found that proteins produced by P. gingivalis are present in higher concentrations in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
In experiments on mice, they found that mice infected by mouth with P. gingivalis later showed signs of brain infection and deterioration; signs similar to those found in humans with early-stage dementia. They went on to find that a newly developed drug could clear the bacterial infection and seemed to stop brain deterioration. The new drug is now being tested on people in clinical trials.
While any advance in treatment of Alzheimer’s disease is welcome, this research is at a very early stage. We don’t know for sure that P. gingivalis causes Alzheimer’s disease in humans, or that the drug will work.