Dementia risk increases after mouth ulcer virus

Herpes simplex virus infection doubles Dementia risk in adults.


People who’ve had herpes are as likely to get dementia as those who haven’t. A new study from Uppsala University confirms past research on herpes being a possible risk for dementia.

The researchers looked at 1,000 70-year-olds from Uppsala for 15 years. Their study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, discovered that those who had herpes simplex virus at any time were twice as likely to get dementia compared to those who never had it. Herpes simplex virus is widespread, with up to 80% of Swedish adults infected. It stays in the body forever, with symptoms coming and going throughout life. Many infected people never show signs.

Erika Vestin, a medical student at Uppsala University, explained, “What’s special about this particular study is that the participants are roughly the same age, which makes the results even more reliable since age differences, which are otherwise linked to the development of dementia, cannot confuse the results.”

Fifty-five million people around the world have dementia. Old age and carrying a specific gene, apolipoprotein ε4, are known to increase the risk. Previous research looked into whether the herpes simplex virus could also raise this risk, and this study confirms it.

Vestin said, ‘It’s exciting that our results confirm past studies. More evidence is emerging, suggesting that herpes simplex virus could be a risk factor for dementia.”

The study highlights the importance of exploring if existing drugs for herpes simplex virus can lower dementia risk and the potential for new vaccines. Vestin suggests, ‘This could lead dementia research towards early treatment with common anti-herpes virus drugs or even prevention before it starts.

The study focuses on the importance of exploring preventive and therapeutic interventions targeting this common viral infection to mitigate the burden of dementia.

Journal reference:

  1. Vestin, Erikaa Boström, Gustaf et al., Herpes Simplex Viral Infection Doubles the Risk of Dementia in a Contemporary Cohort of Older Adults: A Prospective Study. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. DOI:10.3233/JAD-230718.