A Norwegian study discovers a DNA-based connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers suspect the bacteria responsible for gum disease can move to the brain. The bacteria can then produce a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer´s.
“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” said researcher Dr. Piotr Mydel. Mydel is a researcher at Broegelmanns Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB).
Mydel points out that the bacteria is not causing Alzheimer´s alone, but the presence of these bacteria raise the risk for developing the disease substantially and are also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease.
However, the good news is that this study shows that there are some things you can do yourself to slow down Alzheimer’s.
“Brush your teeth and use floss.” Mydel said it is important, if you have established gingivitis and have Alzheimer’s in your family, to go to your dentist regularly and clean your teeth properly.
Researchers have previously discovered that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain where the harmful enzymes they excrete can destroy the nerve cells in the brain.
The new research provides (for the first time) DNA evidence for this process from human brains.
Mydel and his colleagues examined 53 persons with Alzheimer’s and discovered the enzyme in 96 per cent of the cases. According to Mydel, this knowledge gives researchers a possible new approach for attacking Alzheimer’s disease.
“We have managed to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer’s. We are planning to test this drug later this year,” said Mydel.
Mydel explains that the bacteria which attacks gum tissues and causes gingivitis is common.
Some common facts regarding gingivitis include:
• the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) is one of the main causes to infection in the gums;
• the bacteria causes chronic infection in the gums, but can move to the brain where it can damage nerve cells in the brain;
• about 50 percent of the population have this bacteria in one or another form;
• about 10 percent of the ones having this bacteria will develop serious gum disease, loose teeth, and have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease;
• in addition to Alzheimer’s, the bacteria is linked to rheumatism, COPD and esophageal cancer.
Source: University of Bergen