Saturday, 16 February, 2019

A Common Gum Infection Bacteria May Also be Causing Alzheimer's

Credit Wikimedia Commons Credit Wikimedia Commons
Ben Pena | 26 January, 2019, 00:00

Brains with more gingipains had higher quantities of the Alzheimer's-linked proteins tau and ubiquitin.

They found evidence of toxic enzymes, known as gingipains, that are released by P. gingivalis, as well as DNA from the bacterium. And 91 percent of 54 patients tested positive for Kgp, or lysine-gingipain.

People with Alzheimer's are more susceptible to getting infections in their brains, so it may be that the gum disease bacteria and the toxic proteins they secrete are a by-product of Alzheimer's rather than a cause. Too much of this protective response to pathogens could trigger the buildup of the disease's signature amyloid plaques, they suggest.

Giving the mice a drug that binds gingipains cleared P. gingivalis from the brain better than a common antibiotic, and it reduced the β-amyloid production and resulting neurodegeneration.

Around half of adults have periodontitis.

This is not the first study to show a relationship between gum disease and Alzheimer's.

In 2014, it was estimated that as many as 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer's diseases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dominy agrees. 'Certainly, reducing the P. gingivalis load in the mouth, especially at an early age, should be taken more seriously than it now is based on our data, ' he says, though he adds that merely targeting gum disease is unlikely to help with infections of P. gingivalis in the brain.

"Our identification of gingipain antigens in the brains of individuals with AD and also with AD pathology but no diagnosis of dementia argues that brain infection with P. gingivalis is not a result of poor dental care following the onset of dementia or a outcome of late-stage disease, but is an early event that can explain the pathology found in middle-aged individuals before cognitive decline", the authors write in their paper.

Although the paper refers to "evidence for causation", Dominy does a step further and says the experiments suggest "P. gingivalis is causing Alzheimer's".

A Meteor Struck the Moon During the Total Lunar Eclipse
We were somewhat lucky last weekend's impact happened during totality, and with dozens of cameras trained on the Moon. This image from video provided by Griffith Observatory shows an impact flash on the moon during the lunar eclipse.

The mouse studies found that blocking gingipains effectively protected the hippocampus, a part of the brain vital to memory, from P. gingivalis infection. "This remains an area of active investigation", he said.

But does it mean people should be more anxious about their oral health? He and Lynch note that a study published in PLOS ONE in October 2018 by a team at the University of IL in Chicago also found that an oral infection with P. gingivalis can cause amyloid buildup and neurodegeneration in the brains of mice.

"Maintaining good dental health is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and while we don't yet fully know the extent to which it can affect our dementia risk, the presence of a single type of bacteria is extremely unlikely to be the only cause of the condition". Gum disease-causing bacteria such as Porphyromonas gingivalis (abbreviated Pg) have been found in the brains of people who had Alzheimer's.

"We know diseases like Alzheimer's are complex and have several different causes, but strong genetic evidence indicates that factors other than bacterial infections are central to the development of Alzheimer's, so these new findings need to be taken in the context of this existing research", he argued.

Researchers say their findings offer hope for a new way of tackling the illness, for which there is no cure and no effective treatments.

"However, we will have to await the larger clinical trial to see if it will be beneficial to people living with Alzheimer's disease", she said.

Studies in the past have also associated the little-understood disease to the virus which cases herpes.

Luckily, she's managed the disease well for the past 15 years.

Another small study published in 2016 in the journal PLOS ONE found gum disease was associated with a six-fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline in people with mild to moderate dementia.

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