Herpes Virus Could Lead To This Disease, Review Finds

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Recent studies have started to suggest that it is probable that two incurable diseases might have something to do with one another. The herpes simplex type 1 and type 2 viruses might have a connection to the much-debated about cause for Alzheimer’s. Recently, three separate studies have come out about the connection between the two diseases and all seem to show that there is a correlation between individuals that have the herpes virus and those that develop Alzheimer’s.


What Is Herpes?

The herpes simplex virus, both type 1 and type 2, is a virus that remains dormant in the host’s body and will often take months, if not years, to manifest with any symptoms after it was contracted. Type one usually causes sores and blisters around the mouth and facial area while type two causes sores and tenderness around the genitals. Although type one herpes can sometimes cause genital sores, it is not common. Both types of virus are transmitted through saliva, bodily fluids or sexual contact. Even if sores are not present, the virus can still be transmitted from person to person.

Outbreaks of sores are usually triggered by stressors in the body or in the person’s life. General illness, physical or emotional stress, fatigue, trauma, menstruation and even immunosuppressants such as chemotherapy and steroid treatments. The first time that the blisters manifest they are usually the most painful. Oral herpes, or cold sores, usually manifest with a tingling and burning sensation prior to the breakout and blisters themselves will be very tender and possibly painful. Genital herpes, type 2, shows symptoms with aches and pains in and around the genital area as well as burning, pain or difficulty urinating. Some people also experience a discharge and blisters can also occur.

Treatment for herpes usually consists of an antiviral medication that can help to lessen the symptoms or time of the outbreak, but there is no current cure for the herpes virus. Two types of antivirals, penciclovir and famciclovir, inhibit the replication of the HSV-1 and HSV-2 virus; penciclovir is topical medication while the other is a prodrug that is transformed into penciclovir in the body. Acyclovir and valacyclovir are both very effective against herpes viruses as they specifically target virus-infected cells. These antivirals are available as topical and oral solutions but are more expensive treatments than the other antivirals.

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What Is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common of the causes of dementia that cause loss of intellectual and social skills. The disease causes the degeneration and dying of brain cells and a decline in memory and mental function. At first, the symptoms of the disease will only manifest as mild confusion and forgetfulness of certain things or at some times. Over time, the disease progresses to rob the affected individual of their memories and especially recent memories.

Alzheimer’s patients frequently have trouble with memory, thinking and reasoning, making judgments and reasoning, planning and performing familiar tasks, experience changes in personality and behavior such as depression, anxiety, and mood swings. The causes of Alzheimer’s include plaques and tangles – plaques are clumps of protein that damage and destroy brain cells in a few different ways including interfering with cell-to-cell communication. Tangles are threads of tau protein that have twisted into abnormal tangles inside brain cells.

The disease has higher risk of manifesting in certain cases or individuals, depending on lifestyle and sometimes gender or DNA. Risk factors include age, family history and genetics, down syndrome, sex, past head trauma, heart health and other lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise and obesity and lifelong learning and social engagement. Alzheimer’s can be prevented, or at least put off, by a few activities and choices, although, there are no proven methods of preventing Alzheimer’s in 100% of cases. Strong evidence shows that you might be able to prevent Alzheimer’s by taking care of your heart. Keeping active and healthy also seems to show possibilities of preventing Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s currently has no cure and any treatments only serve to prolong the process of the dementia manifesting.


The Studies Connecting The Two

There have been several studies making the connection between HSV-1 and Alzheimer’s. A large group of specialists from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, NY, and Arizona State University in Phoenix found that in a postmortem investigations revealed that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s had more herpes viruses than the brains of people without the disease. The data took evidence from DNA, the RNA molecules that transcribe DNA, proteins and clinical and pathological features. The research didn’t show whether the virus directly caused Alzheimer’s or if the herpes virus is merely an opportunistic tag-along of the disease.

Another study suggested that an infection of the herpes virus puts people at more of a risk for developing dementia and one more suggested that treatment with antiherpetic medication helped to drastically lower the dementia risk. The second study was based on data collected from 8,362 people above the age of 50 who received a diagnosis of herpes simplex virus as well as a control group of 25,086 healthy, age-matched people. This study was the most interesting because of the strong correlation between herpes treatment medication and the lowered risk of dementia.


Possible Outcomes and Treatments

The possible connection between the two disease presents a unique opportunity for researchers and doctors. Although both diseases are as-of-now incurable, it could mean that a simple vaccine for the HSV would mean a certain level of treatment, and possibly even curing, of Alzheimer’s. Vaccination even in the infant stage could mean preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s for good. Even if a vaccination is still a long way off, medications that currently treat herpes could be a better treatment for Alzheimer’s than Alzheimer’s medication is at treating the disease.

The herpes virus has become very widespread in recent years and most people are likely to have contracted the virus by the time they are elderly. This means, if there is a connection between having the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s, that there is a very increased risk of individuals developing Alzheimer’s and the disease becoming more and more common. But the connection could also mean a cure for one or both diseases. Currently, even herpes antivirals seem to help those with increased risk of Alzheimer’s to delay the onset of the dementia. Hopefully, there will be more developments on the connection between the two diseases in the future and a possible cure in the works.