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Alzheimer’s and Herpes

February 1, 2007

New research in animals suggests that a common virus may play a role in Alzheimer’s.


Can a virus aggravate Alzheimer’s? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A gene called Apo-E4 has been linked to both Alzheimer’s disease and outbreaks of cold sores. To understand why, neurologist Howard Federoff and his colleagues at the University of Rochester School of Medicine are studying the cold sore virus, herpes simplex1. Federoff’s team found that the virus behaves differently in the brains of mice with the Apo-E4 gene.

HOWARD FEDEROFF (University of Rochester):
They tend to shift the balance between the so-called active form of herpes replication versus the latent form, where the virus becomes dormant, in favor of it being more active.

In addition, prior studies have found that human Alzheimer’s patients with Apo-E4 have elevated levels of herpes DNA in their brains. But Federoff says we still don’t know if having both the gene and the virus increases your risk of Alzheimers.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.