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Cold Sore Virus May Be Alzheimer's Smoking Gun 285

Science Daily is reporting that the virus behind cold sores has been found to be a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease sufferers. Researchers believe the herpes simplex virus is a significant factor in developing the debilitating disease and could be treated by antiviral agents such as acyclovir, which is already used to treat cold sores and other diseases caused by the herpes virus. Another future possibility is vaccination against the virus to prevent the development of Alzheimer's in the first place. The research was just published in the Journal of Pathology (abstract).
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Cold Sore Virus May Be Alzheimer's Smoking Gun

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  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @06:10PM (#26024437)

    Let's wait until the anti-vaccine douchebags hear about THIS. Doesn't this vaccine turn your prepubescent daughter into a whore?

  • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @06:13PM (#26024461)

    Or "virus only does this to people with gene X".

  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @06:57PM (#26024859)

    Any chance it was simply frostbite?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @07:32PM (#26025147)

    It's the great thing about statistics, if 90% of adults have it then a 100% of all people will die with it and some prematurely. Unless there's a factor that stands out the numbers can be spun to back most agendas. Unless they find that Alzheimer's is rare to nonextistent in people that don't have the herpes virus then it's hard to confirm anything when 90% of the population has it. Even then given the fact everyone for the most part are exposed to it an immunity to herpes might also protect you from other conditions that cause Alzheimer's. Odds are we'll never know unless some one comes up with an antiviral that will kill herpes.

  • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @07:33PM (#26025153)
    You are showing no more understanding of the issue than those you mock. The group of people that are against vaccinations are a separate and only slightly overlapping group to the 'fundies' that you are talking about. Most of the people that refuse immunization do so based on what they believe is the correct MEDICAL choice. Most fundamentalists get their children immunized. Most of the fundamentalists that think HPV vaccination will lead to promiscuous premarital sex by girls, also think that premarital sex by boys is wrong. They are not against immunization, they just want premarital sex to have a heavy toll to try to stop it.

    Calling people morons when you clearly do not understand the issue is kind of ironic.
  • by osu-neko ( 2604 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @08:10PM (#26025427)
    Rule of thumb: When someone is trying to explain the "cause" of something, and they have mentioned less than a dozen different things, they're oversimplifying.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @08:40PM (#26025693)

    Please note that a virus transcripts its genetic material into the host cell's genetic sequence in order to reproduce. There is a very high probability that sometimes transcripted viral DNA or RNA sequences can remain dormant. Some biologists go so far as to even suggest that a significant portion of our DNA structure is caused by this phenomenon.

    Herpes virii remain dormant while transcripted into a nerve cell's DNA, and are brought out of this dormancy whenever the host's immune system is compromised (ie, cold or flu, hence the likage of this outbreak with the cold or flu that the person suffered from in the first place, naming the herpes labiolis as a "cold sore"). It would not be a far stretch to discover that this could be a moer systemic infection, rather than localized to just the region of outbreak, and that, over time, the entier nervous system could be affected.

  • by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) * on Sunday December 07, 2008 @08:47PM (#26025765)

    Actually, I would say it is the exact same thing, refusing possibly life-saving modern medicine to their children based on unfounded religious beliefs.

    Not to mention, the argument that HPV vaccination will "Lower the perceived risk of engaging in sex" is complete BS. Word wide, throughout history, no teenager in the world has ever thought - "I want to have unprotected sex... but I might get Human PapillomaVirus!" The health related factors that lead to the choice of abstinence are more along the lines of pregnancy, HIV, and genital herpes. The truth is, it is not about prevention it is about punishment. HPV vaccination isn't going to have any affect on decision-making, but it reduces the chance the people will die for screwing around, and religious fundamentalists don't want that.

    Furthermore, even if you believe there is any morality to this argument, it is still baseless due to the fact that sexual contact is not the only way to get a virus, even blood-born ones. If your daughter steps on a used needle in the sand at the beach, and catches HPV, and dies of cervical cancer, what have you achieved? You are responsible for her death. Furthermore, refusal to vaccinate against STDs is tantamount to blaming the victim for rape, as this is a common avenue for infection.

    If it wasn't clear already, I feel strongly that anyone who would advocate against immunizations for 'moral reasons' is morally despicable.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Sunday December 07, 2008 @08:47PM (#26025771) Homepage Journal

    You know another great thing about statistics? People who know what they're doing can also use them to make meaningful calculations about the way things work in the real world. 90% vs 10% is an unbalanced sample, sure, but there are more than enough people in that 10% to make it a large enough sample size to calculate a meaningful odds ratio.

  • Re:timely article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TerranFury ( 726743 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @08:50PM (#26025801)

    There's an issue with this of course. By the time you get older -- say, into your early 20s -- about 50% of the people your own age have oral HSV-1. What do you do, live in fear of contracting the virus? Don't kiss your date good night? Only consider romantic involvement with the 50% of the population that doesn't have HSV-1?

    The problem is that the only way to avoid getting HSV-1 that isn't completely absurd is to just be lucky.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday December 07, 2008 @09:45PM (#26026379) Journal

    Many of the diseases that are more common now affect relatively old people. If you have a disease that rarely kills anyone under the age of 40, you will have seen a marked increase in it over the last hundred years or so.

    Several forms of cancer are good examples of this. They are a lot more prevalent now than a century ago because few people lived long enough to develop them to a fatal degree. When comparing infection statistics, also compare age ranges. If diseases are more common in the 30-40 age range than they were, then you might want to worry.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 07, 2008 @10:44PM (#26026849)
    and herpes isn't contagious; the herpes simplex virus is.
  • by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Monday December 08, 2008 @12:06AM (#26027753) Homepage
    BHT stands for butylated hydroxytoluene. I'd be worried about the metabolites of anything that has toluene as a component. Think paint thinner. That stuff is not healthy in any significant quantity. BHT has been used as a food preservative since way back, but that too doesn't mean it's good for you. And it implies it's NOT good for you in any appreciable quantity. The reason things work as preservatives is because they're more or less toxic to living things, like bacteria, but in larger quantities also to larger living things.

    Let someone else be the guinea pig on this....
  • by spectecjr ( 31235 ) on Monday December 08, 2008 @12:54AM (#26028247) Homepage

    ---I don't follow this logic at all. Even if the rate of cancer-inducing mutations/epigenetic changes is constant the incidence of cancer should rise exponentially in relation to age since more and more of those mutations will have occurred as time passed.

    Mainly that the rate of cell division actually drops significantly as you get older. As my GP says, fetal cells replicate so fast that they're pretty much just happy bouncing baby tumors. So if mutations are the cause of it all, surely those mutations should occur more frequently when cell division is at its highest?

    If it's cell division and the consequent errors which cause it, then surely skin cancer, colon cancer and bone marrow cancer should be the most frequent? (After all, these cells all divide continuously). However, breast cancer and prostate cancer are more common. (Prostate cancer has been shown to have some connection to a mouse-xenotropic retrovirus in some studies; it's amazing what we can find now we have the tech to find viral particles directly in tissue samples using virion assays).

    Similarly, if it's just replication errors which are the issue, then consider how many cells are in the human body. Surely those replication errors should be much more prevalent.

  • Re:timely article (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TerranFury ( 726743 ) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:38AM (#26028595)

    It's easy to avoid kissing, etc. people who are actively having outbreaks. I avoid that too. But people with HSV are contagious at other times as well. The phrase is "asymptomatic viral shedding" -- and, actually, infected people are shedding more often than they are having outbreaks! So if you rule out people who have HSV-1, and not just those who are currently having an obvious outbreak, then you've ruled out 50% of the population. What do you do, ask a girl "Do you have any history of cold sores?" before you kiss her? It just doesn't seem practical to me.

  • by repapetilto ( 1219852 ) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:56AM (#26028777)

    But cells with "good" DNA can divide all they want without causing cancer, since they will only do so when the proper signal to do so is present. As you age more and more of your cells will have errors in their DNA (for the reason stated above) that cause them to divide irrespective of whatever external or internal signals to divide or kill themselves. These mutations aren't necessarily the result of faulty DNA replication but can be caused by environmental factors damaging the DNA in a way that isn't repaired correctly which, if it happens at the wrong spot(s), results in altered expression of genes involved in regulating cell proliferation or apoptosis, thus allowing that cell to become cancerous. So what I'm saying is that replication errors aren't the only cause of changes to DNA sequence (your viral theory is an example of this...).

    Also the logic behind thinking that more innately proliferative cells are more prone to cancer is also two-fold in that the more times a cell divides the more replications the original DNA will have undergone thus allowing more chances for error (what you seemed to be thinking about) but also DNA packed tightly in heterochromatin is less available to react with whatever chemicals are around to alter it. S-phase DNA is necessarily more exposed to whatever random chemicals are floating around in the nucleus and, throughout the cell cycle, highly-proliferative cells will have those cell division/apoptosis regulating genes more exposed so that they can be easily accessed for transcription and since those genes are normally more active fewer mutations may be unnecessary before you end up with a cell that just grows out of control. Those obviously aren't the only factors though, since, as you say, how often a cell ends up with cancerous progeny isn't necessarily related to how often it normally divides. Maybe it has something to do with accessibility of those tissues to carcinogens or that the ability of the body to detect the faulty cell and/or mount an effective immune response differs by tissue...I don't know, maybe someone has studied it.

    Anyway I guess what I'm saying is it doesn't make sense to conclude that cells that divide more become cancerous more often and therefore we should see the same incidence of cancer regardless of age, which is not what happens. Further I don't see how that conclusion supports a viral theory of cancer over chemically induced cancer (oxidative stress, carcinogens). I don't think theres anyone in the know who claims that the primary cause of cancers is errors during DNA replication. I'm obviously ready to entertain the idea that most tumors are the result of viral infection (or else I wouldn't have read what you had to say) but that point you were making still doesn't seem logical to me.

  • by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Monday December 08, 2008 @04:35AM (#26029861)
    Your post is rather smug, yet you fail to explain your reasoning. If the grandparent post is incorrect, why not explain why he or she is wrong rather than acting condescending without supporting your argument that the poster is incorrect? The core of the grandparent's post seems correct. Many diseases do not develop major symptoms or even show up at all until old age -- some because of the time they take to progress far enough for symptoms to be noticed, some because they are simply age-related diseases. It makes sense to me that as peoples' life spans increase, there would be a larger percentage of older people, thus a larger percentage of age-related diseases. The GP did say hundreds of years -- and life expectancy worldwide just a hundred years ago was only 40. Now it is 66. [] [] []

    That's not to say that I completely agree with the grandparent poster. Medical science has progressed a lot during the past 100 years as well and medical screenings and diagnosis have improved to the point where we may be seeing more cases because we are simply better at screening and diagnosing illnesses where as a hundred years ago, many people may have died from illnesses that went unnoticed and their deaths were decided to be because of old age. Also misdiagnosis was likely common because so many diseases have similar symptoms and without today's medical labs to do testing, it's quite possible many patients were misdiagnosed before modern analysis was prevalent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 08, 2008 @07:38AM (#26030747)

    I briefly dated a girl with herpes, so I've done quite a bit of research about it. One of the things that I found interesting is that because herpes is a nonfatal "nuisance" disease, it doesn't get a lot of attention from drug researchers. And a lot of herpes patients have stories about doctors who don't take seriously the impact of the disease on their quality of life.

    There is a severe stigma to having herpes and those who have it often suffer from fear of rejection far beyond what the stereotypical Slashdot geek has to endure. Add to that the potential guilt of having transmitted it to others and the feeling of victimization of acquiring from a partner who through ignorance or selfishness didn't tell you that they had it. Even if it IS a "nuisance" disease, it carries all the shame and anxiety that come with a serious STD.

    If it is associated with Alzheimer's disease, however, maybe that will serve as stronger motivation to the medical community to find a cure or a vaccination -- sort of how they found a vaccination for the strains of Human Papiloma Virus most frequently implicated in cases of cervical cancer.

  • by Tetsujin ( 103070 ) on Monday December 08, 2008 @01:27PM (#26035341) Homepage Journal

    OK, so there was this guy with Alzheimer's, right? And one time some people came to his room. He was very tired, and so he mostly just lay in his bed. When he thought they might be saying something that needed a response he'd say "sure". Mostly, however, he kept quiet.

    After a bit, someone else came in and asked him to eat some crushed-up pills and drink some juice. When presented with the straw for the juice, instead of drinking, he blew some bubbles through the straw - and everybody there got a good laugh.

    I don't have a problem with people who make jokes about Alzheimer's... Nothing should be beyond the scope of humor. But this is a sample of what Alzheimer's is to me.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman