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Alzheimer's "link" to cold sores

Researchers claim they have uncovered "strong" evidence which links the cold sore virus to Alzheimer's disease.

And they believe that the discovery could lead to the development of a vaccine that may help prevent people from developing the condition, which is the most common form of dementia.

Around 80% of elderly people carry the herpes simplex virus, HSV-1.

Scientists at the University of Manchester infected cultures of human brain cells with the virus.

They discovered that it caused a dramatic increase in levels of amyloid beta protein - the main constituent of the deposits, or plaques, which form in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Writing in New Scientist magazine, researcher Dr Ruth Itzhaki said: "This strongly suggests that the virus produces amyloid protein and, ultimately, plaques in Alzheimer's brains."

About half of all people who develop Alzheimer's have a gene variant, called ApoE4.

Dr Itzhaki suggests that in people carrying the variant, HSV-1 is repeatedly reactivated from an otherwise latent state.

She now wants to see whether antiviral drugs can "switch off" the process, and thereby combat Alzheimer's.

"I think there's enough evidence to begin giving people with ApoE4 antiviral drugs to slow the progression of the disease," she said.

New Scientist

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Would you welcome an Alzheimer's vaccine? Please leave you comments, name and location in the feedback box below. Your details will not be published if you so request. (Terms and conditions apply)

"Yes. It is difficult seeing only a silhouette of my mum vanishing before our eyes, and I certainly don't want that for me or my children." - Name and address supplied

"I was diagnosed over two years ago with early Alzheimer's disease. I had two episodes of shingles during the six years before diagnosis. Is it possible that the whole family of Herpes viruses may contribute to Alzheimer's? Will Dr. Itzhaki's research explore this? - Name and address supplied

"I would most certainly welcome an Alzheimer's vaccine. My sister and I have been trying to obtain the vaccine, but don't know how. We would even travel out of the country. Our mother and grandmother both had Alzheimer' s. We are positive for herpes" - Name and address supplied

"Yes please. I am a caregiver for my 78 year-old mother who has herpes simplex. I also have the virus" - Suzanne Connell, Pentwater

"It is very difficult to even be tested for the APOE4 gene here in Canada, but I would definitely welcome the vaccine since Alzheimer's seems to run through my family" - Theresa Allen, Ontario Canada

My 56 year-old sister who has had genital herpes for 34 years,  with numerous severe outbreaks of herpes during that time was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's about five years ago. She is also APoG4. Could the herpes have caused the Alzheimer's and is there a treatment for it?- Name and address supplied