A gum bacterium may be the cause of Alzheimer's disease

A team of researchers suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may originate from Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium that causes gum inflammation.

In recent years, a growing number of studies seem to suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is not a simple disease, but that it has an infectious origin. A new study provides new evidence confirming the bacterial trail: it would indeed seem that the origin of the disorder is in Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacterium responsible for certain inflammations of the gums.

The bacterial trail

The private company Cortexyme has announced the publication of a study, published in January 2019 in the journal science advances. An international team of researchers describes the role of P. gingivalis in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. “For the first time, we are providing strong evidence of a link between the Gram-negative intracellular pathogen Pg and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease,” says lead author Stephen Dominy.

In mice, researchers found that an infection caused by P. gingivalis resulted in increased production of beta-amyloid, the aggregates of which are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to the presence of the bacterium itself, the researchers also identified neurotoxic peptidases, which have a destructive effect on tau proteins, which normally play a role in the proper functioning of neuronal function.

Promising clinical trials

However, the company seems to have already demonstrated the efficacy of a class of small molecule therapies that act as inhibitors of the pathogen. To do this, they developed a compound specifically targeting P. gingivalis peptidases. This remedy limits the bacterial load, blocks the production of beta-amyloid (Aβ42), reduces inflammation and protects neurons in the hippocampus.

The molecule has already been tested (phase 1b) in several elderly patients and people with Alzheimer’s disease, showing good tolerance to the treatment. Cognitive test results demonstrate its effectiveness for the time being, but further testing will need to be done before it is released to the market.

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