Alzheimer’s disease is the number one leading cause of dementia in the world. It makes up about 70% of dementia cases (1).
Although it’s called a disease, new research suggests its root cause may be an infection.
Alzheimer’s disease causes beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. This causes cognitive decline and memory loss (1).
Researchers are still working to determine the exact cause but, gum disease has risen to the top of the list.
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The Link Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Gum
A 2019 study found Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. P. gingivalis is a key pathogen in chronic periodontitis, a.k.a gum disease (2).
This study suggests that gum disease may be an underlying cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Although this is not the first time a hypothesis like this was made.
A study in 2010 showed an increased risk of cognitive decline in older men with tooth loss. The causes of tooth loss were periodontal disease and caries (3).
Additionally, studies in mice showed oral infections with P. gingivalis lead to brain colonization. This occurred along with the production of beta-amyloid plaques.
More research is still needed to prove this hypothesis, but these results are compelling.
The team also discovered the presence of gingipains in both Alzheimer’s and non-Alzheimer’s patients who had markers of the disease.
Gingipains are toxic enzymes secreted by the bacteria in the brain. This suggests that the presence of P.
gingivalis was not the result of poor dental care from dementia. Instead, it suggests these patients might have developed Alzheimer’s later in life (2).
This information strengthens the hypothesis that Alzheimer’s disease could be caused by bacteria from gum disease.
Thus, reducing incidences of gum disease may help to prevent this illness.
An experiment with mice used a compound, known as COR388 to reduce the bacterial load of P. gingivalis infection.
It also reduced beta-amyloid plaque production in the brain. But further research is still needed.
We are still a long way from establishing a new Alzheimer’s disease treatment but studies like this one bring us much closer to reducing incidences of the disease.