Published: Sat, January 26, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Gum disease bug linked to Alzheimer’s in breakthrough

Gum disease bug linked to Alzheimer’s in breakthrough

A new study could potentially change the way Alzheimer's is detected. They tested the tissue samples for the presence of 2 protein fragments produced by P. gingivalis bacteria, called gingipains to see if people with Alzheimer's disease had more gingipains in their brain tissue.

As BBC reports, there are some serious questions left to be answered.

In a study of mice and humans, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that sleep deprivation increases levels of the protein tau, which is linked to Alzheimer's disease. "He points out that while most of the data presented in the Cortexyme study supported their hypothesis, gingipains weren't found in all of the Alzheimer's-affected brains, 'so whilst it may be a cause, the data don't exactly support it being the only cause".

"When we gave the AD animals this enzyme inhibitor, we saw the rescue of cognitive function confirmed through evaluations of recognition memory, spatial memory and working memory".

Tau is normally found in the brain - even in healthy people - but under certain conditions it can clump together into tangles that injure nearby tissue and presage cognitive decline.

However, he welcomed the avenue of inquiry as no new drugs targeting Alzheimer's have been released for over 15 years.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at charity Alzheimer's Research UK, pointed out that Alzheimer's was likely to have multiple causes, one of which may be gum disease bacteria.

The bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis, known as Pg, lead to the gum infection chronic periodontitis, causing chronic inflammation and potential tooth loss.

In mouse studies, oral infection with the same bacteria led to colonisation of the brain.

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P. gingivalis infections are typically dealt with using antibiotics, but Dominy and his colleagues found that treating infected cells with antibiotics didn't stop the damage caused by the enzymes.

She was diagnosed in 2003 after her husband noticed she forgot her cell phone one day even though she had just called him from it.

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The findings, which were published in the January 14 issue of Nature Medicine, can potentially help with early Alzheimer's diagnoses and new drug development.

Referring to tau, a protein associated with Alzheimer's disease, Dominy told Newsweek: "Studies reported in our paper indicate that P. gingivalis and gingipains can directly kill neurons, damage tau, elevate levels of beta amyloid, and increase markers of neuroinflammation". It is encouraging to hear that clinical trials are underway, but many drugs which seem promising at first for Alzheimer's disease do not turn out to be safe or effective in human trials.

Dr Stephen Dominy, one of the study authors and co-founder of the United States company Cortexyme, which developed COR388, said: "Infectious agents have been implicated in the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease before, but the evidence of causation hasn't been convincing". He and Lynch note that a study published in PLOS ONE in October 2018 by a team at the University of IL in Chicago also found that an oral infection with P. gingivalis can cause amyloid buildup and neurodegeneration in the brains of mice.

That's partly because other recent studies that have explored the link with periodontal disease have not always found it in people with Alzheimer's.

Understanding that process has revealed potential drug targets, she said, since repressive histone modification is controlled or catalyzed by enzymes.

Marzi, who was not involved in the research, said in an email to CNN that if "this result can be replicated in larger cohorts and more generally in sporadic cases of Alzheimer's Disease, the blood test for NfL would indeed be a promising biomarker or diagnostic tool".

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