“The suspects have been reliably placed at the crime scene,” says Leslie Norins, MD, PhD, analyzing the accumulated evidence that microbes inhabit or visit the brain and likely trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Norins is CEO of Alzheimer’s Germ Quest, Inc., an independent advocacy group for Alzheimer’s research.
“The clincher,” he says, is the research presented by Rosalinda Roberts at the recent Society for Neuroscience meeting, and as featured in Science. She and colleagues at the University of Alabama, using electron microscopy, unexpectedly found bacterial forms penetrating and inhabiting brain tissue samples from healthy human brains. Similar evidence was found in samples from patients with schizophrenia, which was the disease they were studying.
“These unexpected brain bacteria add urgency to Alzheimer’s infection research.”
Dr. Norins says Roberts’ findings of bacteria where they were unexpected immediately brought to his mind the discovery by Marshall and Warren of previously overlooked H. pylori bacteria inhabiting the stomach lining—from where they could cause gastric ulcers in some people.
Dr. Norins says this adds to the convincing evidence he heard at a recent Swiss conference, where leading researchers added to accumulating information indicating that one or more infectious agents could trigger Alzheimer’s.
“This pretty much wraps it up,” he says. “Microorganisms of all sorts live in or visit the brain. Now the major mystery is what makes the killer ones actually pull the trigger.”
Dr. Norins says this will require the National Institutes of Health and Alzheimer’s advocacy organizations to prioritize funding of the necessary research on Alzheimer’s infectious agents, instead of allocating most of their funds to traditional studies of brain proteins amyloid and tau.
He says, “If these infection leads prove fruitful, we could get a simple blood test for Alzheimer’s, an antibiotic to treat it, and even a preventive vaccine. There’s no downside, as whatever is found will be important new knowledge about the brain and its microbiome.”
Alzheimer’s Germ Quest, Inc. is a public benefit corporation headquartered in Naples, Florida. It sponsors a $1 million challenge award for the researcher who proves an infectious agent is the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease.