Lifestyle and genetic factors certainly play a role in the development of the illness. But it looks increasingly possible that some common viruses and bacteria – the kinds that give us cold sores and gum disease – may, over the long term, trigger the death of neural tissue and a steady cognitive decline. If so, infections may be one of the leading causes of dementia.
To date, the most compelling evidence for the infection hypothesis comes from a large study in Taiwan, published in 2018, which looked at the progress of 8,362 people carrying a herpes simplex virus. Crucially, some of the participants were given antiviral drugs to treat the infection.
As the infection hypothesis predicted, this reduced the risk of dementia. Overall, those taking a long course of medication were around 90% less likely to develop dementia over the 10-year study period than the participants who had not received any treatment for their infection.
Eventually, doctors may screen people according to the many different microbes they may be carrying in their brains – and control the infections before they have time to cause serious damage.
Read the original story here.
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