Is Alzheimer’s Caused by an Infection?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Research has shown that some common bacteria are consistently detected in the central nervous system of Alzheimer’s patients.1

Doctors from the International Alzheimer Research Center in Switzerland published a study indicating a high probability of a causal relationship, not just an association, between spirochete infections and Alzheimer’s disease.

What they discovered was pretty amazing. They found spirochetes in about 90% of Alzheimer’s patients, while the bacteria were virtually absent in healthy age-matched controls.1

Could Alzheimer’s disease be caused by this infection? Let’s explore.

Spirochetes Form Brain Plaques

Much insight about what could happen in the brain during this process comes from studies on a spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the cause of Lyme disease. Spirochete infection begins with the bacteria entering the brain. Once within the brain tissue, they cause disease by forming plaques or masses along the cerebral cortex — the surface of the brain.

Agglutination in the center of the plaque results in a homogeneous central core, which attracts brain macrophages, called microglial cells. The macrophages are responsible for recognizing foreign invaders, engulfing them and presenting them to bacteria fighting immune cells.

The macrophages become trapped within the core of the spirochete plaque. Once trapped, they are vulnerable to attack by the spirochetes. This results in their dysfunction and diminished capacity for fighting the infection. The infection spreads and begins to damage and kill brain cells.2

Damaged brain cells produce the characteristic amyloid-beta protein seen in Alzheimer’s patients. Now here’s where it gets really interesting…

Amyloid-beta Protein has Antibacterial Properties

Scientists have discovered that amyloid-beta protein has anti-bacterial properties, indicating that its production may be an adaptive response to infectious organisms, like invading spirochetes.3,4

The whole process may work something like this:

  1. Spirochetes invade and infect the brain.
  2. The brain’s normal defenses become dysfunctional as the macrophages (microglia) become trapped and then attacked within the core of the spirochete plaque.
  3. With immune dysfunction setting in, the spirochete infection intensifies involving more and more brain cells.
  4. Damaged brain cells produce amyloid-beta protein as an adaptive response to the infection.
  5. Amyloid-beta deposits grow and begin to affect brain cell connections and communication highways.
  6. With damaged connections and communication highways, dementia symptoms begin and gradually worsen.

Early Intervention with Antibiotics

These findings have led some researchers to hypothesize that “…early intervention against infection may delay or even prevent the future development of Alzheimer’s disease.”3

Early intervention might include prophylactic antibiotic therapy in people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s — a person with a strong family history or the presence of the Apo-E4 allele (a lipoprotein used for fat and cholesterol transport).5

Antibiotic therapy could also be used as part of the early treatment regimen in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Reversing Macrophage Dysfunction with Curcumin

Here’s something amazing: Curcumin helps enhance the engulfing properties of brain macrophages — the same macrophages that are damaged and dysfunctional by the spirochetes.

As it turns out, curcumin can bind to amyloid-beta plaques, allowing the brain macrophages to “latch on” and engulf the plaques. The clearing of the plaques can help resolve the infection and reestablish normal brain cell connections and communication highways.6

Could antibiotics and curcumin make up an early Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment regimen in the future? It sure is looking possible.

References:

  1. J Neuroinflammation. 2011 Aug 4;8:90.
  2. Neurobiol Aging.2006;27:228–236.
  3. Alzheimers Dement. 2009 Jul;5(4):348-60.
  4. PLoS One. 2010 Mar 3;5(3):e9505.
  5. N Engl J Med. 1995 Nov 9;333(19):1242-7.
  6. J Biol Chem. 2005 Feb 18;280(7):5892-901.

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18 comments:

Lucinda Parmenter said...

My mother died of Alzheimer's at 91. She also had Lyme disease that left her hands pretty crippled from arthritis and became very deaf, both of which I felt were Lyme related. She was by no means a "typical" Alzheimer's patient. She was unlike any of the other patients in the facility. I ALWAYS suspected it was the Lyme but my voice carried little weight. I am heartened that this is being studied and looked at. Thanks for the article and the incredible cutting-edge research you do!

Anonymous said...

What about resveratrol? Would that have any effect on this infection?

Anonymous said...

Isn't neem oil supposed to cure Alzheimers? Nutrients needed by the brain I think would help also like DHA and Vitamin B12(Methylcobalamin).

Anonymous said...

I got my mom out of a Alzheimer's unit with daily dose of Coconut oil! I always suspected it was Lyme, I have had Lyme Disease for over 21 yrs. It is a stubborn infection to treat, still waiting for remission. :(

Trent Nichols said...

You are right on! Alan MacDonald MD along with Judith Miklossey MD in Switzerland are the leading proponents of the spirochete connection and Alzheimer's. Alan published his finding Borrelia Bd DNA in the plaques in 7 out of 10 freshly autopsied brains from the McLean brain bank at Harvard! We had an abstract on the "Emerging Role of Pathogens in Pathogens in Alzheimer's at the Society of Neuroscience in 2012

llynwood@gmail.com said...

Alzheimer's and Neuroborreliosis studies commenced in 1985 with
My papers describing the cultuivation of borrelia and the indetification of borrelia
in autopsy tissues from Dr. Geroge Glenner's Alzheimer Diisease Brain bank.
These reports were published in JAMA, Human Pathology,an The Annals of the New Academy of Sciences in 1986,1987,1988.
Respectfully,
Alan B.MacDonald Md

Anonymous said...

MY DAD DIED OF ALZHEIMER'S AND PARKINSON AT 78 HE ALSO HAD LYME DISEASE WHICH I ALSO THOUGHT BROUGHT THIS ON. GLAD TO HEAR THEY ARE NOW STUDING THIS FOR POSSIBLE AFFECTS
. NOTE! HE DID NOT GO TO DR. WITH THE LYME DISEASE FOR OVER A WEEK HE THOUGHT HE HAD THE FLU. BEWARE.

Life Extension said...

Lucinda Parmenter - We're sorry about your mom. We hope that research will one day uncover the true cause of Alzheimer's disease.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - Haven't seen any research showing resveratrol combats the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - We have not seen any evidence indicating that neem oil cures Alzheimer's disease.

Life Extension said...

Anonymous - We wrote a blog specifically on Alzheimer's and coconut oil. Check it out: http://ow.ly/rIh8f

A John said...

Good research. Thanks for sharing information.

Life Extension said...

A John - It's our pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!

Joanne said...

Excellent to see your post. Judith Miklossy has done some excellent work her website is very interesting http://miklossy.ch/ as has Alan MacDonald http://alzheimerborreliosis.net/
It was good to read that university of Lancashire Dental Department earlier this year published work finding dental pathogens in Alzheimer brains thus in part supporting Judith Miklossy's work http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24059310

Life Extension said...

Joanne - Thanks for your feedback!

Ann said...

I had a 9 or 10 year decline in cognitive function, my MD specializes in hard to diagnose disorders and after ruling out all, including heavy metals, he told me he thought I had dementia and should get more testing to find out "what we got" I was shocked to find that I could not draw a clock (age 53) I had progressive aphasia, problems stumbling and grasping things, "wound up" in late afternoon and needed Seroquel , severe insomnia, non command friendly hallucinations, trouble driving and finding places, lapse of time, I could look at something and not see it, or would interpret it incorrectly, and could recall only 2 of 3 items. I attended a really weird seminar, called Qinway "furnace". Its a type of medical Qigong. According to my journal, less then 2 months of practice (I estimate very roughly that I could follow the program 60% at the first few weeks) the majority of symptoms were cleared and within 4 months 90% of symptoms were resolved. That was approx. 2 years ago. I still have some spatial problems, but am functioning very well. For years I used to occasionally feel a little fluish and run a low grade temp. I have degenerative arthritis . I wonder if my problems were caused by this bug. I hope to someday teach others to see if they can also experience such great results. (coconut oil helped some , not sure that years of supplements helped)

Life Extension said...

Ann - Thanks for sharing your experience! We're certainly glad you're doing better. You may want to look at the following link for nutritional suggestions. They may be of help to you: http://ow.ly/slXYC

Leni Ellwein said...

I am struggling with 10 years of being ill and dx with lyme disease in 2009 when I finally moved from michigan to Maryland. I have had over three years of antibiotics and taking supplements, medications and herb tinctures and following a strict diet. I'm very concerned about my cognitive functioning, ( word finding, confusion, forgetfulness,severe anxiety, trouble driving and misinterpreting what people say and behaving like I am bi-polar or have dementia.) it really scares me. I've been to my doctor and he is a wonderful lyme literate doctor, but...I'm not sure what to do now. I'm taking stephania root, and other herbs for my cog. functioning but I seem to be making extremely slow process. I will try the coconut oil..is there anything else anyone can recommend?

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