Herpes virus linked to Alzheimer's disease in new research

blown up cell
The results found that two strains of herpes virus were far more plentiful in the brains of those with early-stage Alzheimer's than in healthy controls. Photo credit: File

New research shows carrying the herpes virus may contribute to your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

A study published in the US medical journal Neuron on Thursday reviewed the brains of 622 people showing early signs of Alzheimer's.

The results found that two strains of herpes virus were far more plentiful in the brains of those with early-stage Alzheimer's than in healthy controls, the The Guardian reports.

The strain of herpes virus most commonly found were the (HHV) 6A and HHV 7. But don't panic. Unlike their better-known cousins HSV 1 and HSV 2, they aren't sexually transmitted.

Both viruses affect nerve cells and are more frequently found in patients with neuro-inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis. 

Scientists are divided on whether viruses are an active trigger, or whether the brains of people already on the path towards the neurodegenerative disease are more vulnerable to infection.

"The viral genomes were detectable in about 30 percent of Alzheimer's brains and virtually undetectable in the control group," Sam Gandy, a New York professor of neurology and a co-author of the study, told The Guardian.

It's projected that more than 170,000 Kiwis will be living with dementia by 2050. The total cost of dementia to New Zealand is now around $1.7 billion and will reach around $5 billion by 2050.

Newshub.