Porphyromonas gingivalis, a key bacteria in chronic gum disease, appears to be the cause of Alzheimer's disease, researchers believe.
A slew of recent studies has focused on the connection between gum disease and Alzheimer's, and researchers from the firm Cortexyme now believe their latest study shows P. gingivalis as the cause of the tragic memory loss disease, not a symptom.
"Bacteria involved in gum disease and other illnesses have been found after death in the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s, but until now, it hasn't been clear whether these bacteria caused the disease or simply got in via brain damage caused by the condition," reports New Scientist.
The finding, says the site, could lead to a vaccine for Alzheimer’s: "[A] drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer's."
Regarding the link between the bacteria and Alzheimer's, the site explains that experimental mice engineered to have the disease were found to have worsened symptoms if they had gum infections. Also, P. gingivalis "can cause Alzheimer’s-like brain inflammation, neural damage, and amyloid plaques in healthy mice."
"In the new study, Cortexyme have now reported finding the toxic enzymes – called gingipains – that P. gingivalis uses to feed on human tissue in 96 per cent of the 54 Alzheimer’s brain samples they looked at, and found the bacteria themselves in all three Alzheimer's brains whose DNA they examined," the site noted.
And when Cortexyme gave mice molecules they developed that block gingipains, it "reduced their infections, halted amyloid production, lowered brain inflammation and even rescued damaged neurons."
"This provides hope of treating or preventing Alzheimer’s disease one day," said Sim Singhrao, a leader of researchers at the University of Central Lancashire, U.K.
Of course, there are far more people with gum disease than Alzheimer's, but researchers believe that the disease "strikes people who accumulate gingipains and damage in the brain fast enough to develop symptoms during their lifetimes."
"Cortexyme reported in October that the best of their gingipain blockers had passed initial safety tests in people, and entered the brain. It also seemed to improve participants with Alzheimer’s. Later this year the firm will launch a larger trial of the drug, looking for P. gingivalis in spinal fluid, and cognitive improvements, before and after," notes the site.
According to Colgate.com, signs of gum disease include, "gums that bleed when eating, brushing, and flossing because they are swollen and tender. You may also notice that your gums are receding. When this happens, your teeth look longer. If you notice sores in your mouth or pus in between your gums and teeth, then chances are you may have gum disease."