Dementia in a recent study was found to be the most expensive disease in America. Already about 3.8 million people have dementia and by 2040 that number is expected to skyrocket to 9.1 million. The total cost for dementia care was calculated by the RAND corporation to be $109 Billion. That is billion with a B. That puts it ahead of heart disease at $102 billion and cancer at $77 billion.
So clearly a cure or even an effective treatment would be hugely beneficial to society financially. And that does not even mention the immense human suffering, not only to the patient but even more so to their family and friends. Current treatments and medications are amazingly ineffective. They only slow the progression and they do not even do that very well. And to date we still do not know the underlying cause.
But one theory that has been reported that holds promise is a connection to herpes simplex virus, the virus that causes cold sores on the mouth (simplex 1 causes cold sores, simplex 2 causes genital herpes). This virus is extremely common. Studies show that worldwide 90% of people are positive for herpes simplex 1 by the time they are 40. In the USA it is a bit lower at about 58%. This virus is well known to occasionally cause a brain infection called encephalitis and when it does it can be quite severe and usually fatal if not treated. However, the thinking goes that maybe the virus can sometimes cause a mild, chronic brain inflammation as it lays dormant in the brain leading to the plaque buildup we see in Alzheimer’s dementia.
In 2009 at the University of Manchester Dr. Wozniak et al went looking for herpes virus in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients who had donated their bodies to science. And indeed they found herpes viral DNA present in 90% of the plaques found in Alzheimer patient brains. In fact this link goes back to at least as far back as the 1990s. There was a journal article in the Lancet by Dr. Itzhaki also from the University of Manchester as far back as 1997. It seems that HSV-1 in the brain of people with a particular gene called epsilon4 allele of apolipoprotein E have much higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
So we can’t do much about the genes but we can do something about the virus. So how about treating the herpes, does it cure Dementia? Thankfully this is being looked at by Dr. Wozniak and Dr. Lukiw and so far they have found that acyclovir (the most commonly used antiviral drug for herpes viruses) does at least show clear evidence of decreasing amyloid plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease seen in the brains on autopsy. Does this mean it cures Alzheimer’s? Well we don’t know because a randomized controlled trial still has yet to be done.
Given the prevalence of dementia and the overwhelming amount of evidence pointing in the direction of herpes virus as a cause and the complete lack of effective treatments, I see no reason why this study has not already been done. The link between Alzheimer’s and Herpes was made almost 20 years ago. In the hopes of alleviating the suffering of the patient’s and family with this devastating disease and God willing start to dramatically decrease our healthcare costs to keep our country solvent this study needs to be done now.
And how to treat the herpes also relates to a previous post of mine on elderberry which may very well be effective. Please see my previous post on elderberry and viruses. Wouldn’t it be crazy if elderberry turns out to be the cure for Alzheimer’s?