In a study published Thursday in the journal Neuron researchers say they’ve found strong evidence to suggest that two strains of the human herpes virus – 6A and 7 – may contribute to the disease. Scientists are working pressed to understand the disease in hopes of finding a cure or at least an effective treatment because Alzheimer’s disease is in the top 10 US causes of death that has no significant treatment available yet.
The researchers found brains with Alzheimer’s had levels of the herpes virus that were up to twice as high as in people who did not have the disease. One of the most prominent theories is that Alzheimer’s may start in the brain as a response to injury from a virus. “I don’t think we can answer whether herpes viruses are a primary cause of Alzheimer’s disease. But what’s clear is that they’re perturbing networks and participating in networks that directly accelerate the brain towards the Alzheimer’s topology,” Joel Dudley, a geneticist and co-author on the study, said in a statement. Dudley believes the new study could help scientists identify virus biomarkers in the brain that could one day help diagnose the disease and assess a person’s risk. Keith Fargo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s director of scientific programs and outreach, said that more research will need to be done to prove that there is a connection between herpes viruses and Alzheimer’s.