The People's Perspective on Medicine

New Research Confirms Link | Herpes Virus Infections and Alzheimer Disease

There is currently no meaningful treatment of Alzheimer disease. What if there were an association between herpes virus infections and alzheimer disease? Could antiviral drugs help?
Senior Adult.

Could Alzheimer disease be caused in part by a viral infection? Such an association seems bizarre and yet the evidence is accumulating that certain strains of herpes virus infections and Alzheimer disease are connected. This has been called the “pathogen hypothesis of Alzheimer’s.” One of the co-authors of the study (Neuron, June 21, 2018) commented:

“This is the most compelling evidence ever presented that points to a viral contribution to the cause or progression of Alzheimer’s.”

Such a statement will likely shake up brain scientists. Yet the author of this conclusion is a heavy hitter. Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, is Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Cognitive Health and NFL Neurological Care at Mount Sinai Health System. He cannot be ignored as a crackpot.

Herpes Virus Infections and Alzheimer Disease Data:

The researchers examined postmortem brain tissues from 600 patients with and without Alzheimer disease. They found a robust association between the likelihood of this form of dementia and the presence of human herpes virus 6A (HHV-6A) and human herpes virus 7 (HHV-7). Genes from these herpes viruses in brain tissue were linked to amyloid plaque, brain tangles and the severity of Alzheimer disease.

The researchers went on to investigate an additional 800 tissue samples from the Mayo Clinic and Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Again they found a link between levels of HHV-6A and HHV-7 and Alzheimer’s dementia.

The Link Between Herpes Virus Infections and Alzheimer Disease is NOT New:

It will likely come as a huge shock to the scientific community to learn that this new discovery is not really new. On October 30, 2014 we reported on Swedish research:

Do Cold Sores Increase the Risk for Alzheimer Disease?

But wait…there’s more! When we started researching a relationship between herpes virus infections and Alzheimer disease we discovered work carried out by pathologist Melvyn J. Ball. In August 1982 he reported in the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences  that the herpes simplex virus might be contributing to the underlying pathology of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Read about Dr. Ball’s research and newer Swedish epidemiology at this link.

What Can We Do About Herpes Virus Infections and Alzheimer Disease?

If this research continues to hold up, neuroscientists will have to reconsider their entire understanding of the causes of this disease. The body’s immune system may be reacting to the presence of invading viruses. If so, there might be something we could do to alter the course of the disease.

Dr. Gandy of Mount Sinai offers this ray of hope:

“A similar situation arose recently in certain forms of Lou Gehrig’s disease. In those patients, viral proteins were discovered in the spinal fluid of some Lou Gehrig’s patients, and patients with positive viral protein tests in their spinal fluid showed benefit when treated with antiviral drugs.”

It is premature to imagine that antiviral drugs might alter the course of Alzheimer disease. On the other hand, virtually all the drugs that have been studied for this form of dementia have flamed out during the last couple of decades. Perhaps it is time to consider the “pathogen hypothesis of Alzheimer’s.” It is not out of the question that antiviral medications could make a difference against this dreaded disease.

We’re hardly the first to propose such a strategy. Scientists writing in the journal Future Microbiology (March, 2012) wrote:

“One strategy might be to use antiviral agents to combat the disease. This possibility is based on data suggesting that herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), the virus responsible for herpes labialis (cold sores), is a cause of AD [Alzheimer Disease].”

We hope researchers soon begin testing antiviral drugs to see whether they can make a difference against this horrific disease.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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My mother passed with Alzheimers at 95. She suffered from cold sores all her life. I am sure I get them because she passed them to me thru kissing.

I hope the scientists do a lot of research on this.

Any natural cure ideas?

Several years ago, I suffered a serious attack of vertigo a short time after cold sore occurrence. I found similar testimonies online and was led to taking 2 gm/day of lysine and have eliminated cold sores by maintaining the 2 gm/day

Bells Palsy abated when a lady began taking lysine. Also I have not had a shingles recurrence since I began regular lysine intake. Dr Glen Rothfeld ( begins cold sore treatment with 1-3 gms lysine. He sights studies which indicate herpes Alzheimer’s connection. Lysine is safe and cheap and affords many other benefits.

This information strikes like a lightening bolt! My mother died one and one half years ago (at age 93) with what I will call dementia since her brain was not analyzed after her death. However, the last 2-3 years of her life she was plagued with a herpes infection that the doctor and/or hospice caretakers could not heal.

Unfortunately, I do not recall the types of medications that she was taking to get rid of this infection, which never left her body. She was diagnosed with cognitive deficits by her doctor.

Although she was 93, she was in excellent health and did not take any prescription drugs. It is unnerving to find that a herpes infection might cause the most devastating illness that I can possibly imagine . . . Alzheimer Disease.

My husband had cold sores. He took L-Lysine and has never had another one.

Would it hurt to give someone L-Lysine if they have early onset dementia or Alzheimer?

When I was young, I used to get cold sores all of the time. Our family doctor suggested that I get a series of Smallpox vaccinations. After this treatment, I rarely got cold sores again. Maybe, the Smallpox vaccine could help Alzheimer’s?

I have had genital herpes since 1974–44 years. I drink green tea–at least 2 to 3 cups daily, as it has antiviral properties and I take 5000 mg of lysine daily during a flare-up. I have not had any cognitive decline over the past 44 years and I am now 73 years old. I avoid foods high in arginine and try to get a good night’s sleep. My question is: does the genital herpes virus contribute to Alzheimer’s or is it just the cold sore type of herpes? If they both contribute then why haven’t I had any cognitive decline from having genital herpes for 44 years? Also, the older I get the more flare-ups I have. In the beginning I would have two or three flare ups per year but in the past 8 years I have had multiple flare-ups per month. Pollen allergies will bring on a flare-up that feels like the flu. Emotional stress also brings on a flare.

My main question is: does genital herpes contribute to Alzheimer’s?

What about the shingles vaccination? I had one done and did not get an outbreak

So even though there is no positive evidence, would taking an anitviral med (one that helps when there is a cold sore coming on) be a good idea?

Really fascinating research on human herpes viruses (HHV-6A and 7) being risk factors for Alzheimer’s. The amino acid L-Lysine has anti-viral activity for HHV and, in many people, will knock out a developing cold sore in less than 24 hours, before it can mature. So could cheap, OTC L-Lysine possibly have some benefit in either preventing or slowing Alzheimer’s disease? If taken daily as a potential preventative, would its effect on HHV wear off. meaning would HHV develop resistance to it?

How ironic it would be if this cheap, OTC amino acid is shown to have some value in Alzheimer’s prevention, after several hugely expensive pharmaceuticals have flamed out!

Question – is Zovirax considered an effective preventative- we take it for genital herpes on a daily basis.

Makes sense – I have some symptoms. This is another ME TOO moment!! As I was raped and got herpes. I cannot take the 2 medications they give for herpes. when I have an outbreak, I take Red Marine Algae. 2 tablets 2 x day for 1 week and then 1 tablet 2 x day for the next week. It quickly stops the pain.

Maybe in time they will have a cure for herpes 1 and 2. And yet my brain memory, fog, etc. the only thing I have found to help is extra virgin coconut oil, and it does help me with the brain issues.

METOO: How much extra virgin coconut oil do you take a day and do you take it daily? Are you cooking with it?
I take Lysine at the first sign of a shingles outbreak. I had not thought of coconut oil. Thanks for your comment.

I’ve had an on/off relationship for years with cold sores. Various factors have kickstarted them including cold weather (stress) and walnuts. No other nuts give me the start of a cold sore. Quite a few years ago my dentist recommended L-Lysine to counteract the beginnings of cold sores. (This amino acid supports skin and lips and is used by the body to produce collagen.”So says the label “)

It works! If the sore is not in a complete breakout yet. When Lysine is used on a regular basis, maybe once or twice a week, cold sores are none existing and do not develop at all. Perhaps this can be investigated further. Also, does everyone who gets cold sores get alzheimers. I was told that if you had Chicken Pox as a child, another form of herpes virus, that this was the cause of the cold sores. Any thoughts?

This has even been addressed on Peoples’ Pharmacy. I wrote a few years ago about how silly it is to treat cold sores with Valacyclovir. The patient has been contagious for four or five days before the outbreak is sensed and treatment begun. This is no way to stop the spread of the virus.

Medical science has been able to develop vaccines for chicken pox, smallpox, polio, mumps, rotavirus, and yellow fever. The only reason there is no vaccine for HSV is that no one has bothered to develop it.

My mother had one cold sore after the other during the 20 years or so preceding her death from Alzheimer’s. I so hope they do more investigating about using antivirals to treat Alzheimer’s. We keep trying to analyze why she got the disease and, in addition to cold sores, she also had overused hormone replacement therapy and cooked in soft, cast aluminum pans for many years. Would love to know the reason.

The word “confirms” is very misleading.

That HSV1 would cause Alzheimer’s would not surprise me. The virus is pervasive and has been found in human fossils as far back as we’ve found them. All of the herpes viruses cause inflammation as well, which can cause heart disease. It also wouldn’t surprise me that herpes end up to be the cause of the mutations leading to cancer.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if taking an anti-viral or something as simple as Lysine and vitamin D every day could ward off both Alzheimer’s and cancer?

It would make the drug companies crazy because they couldn’t patent Lysine or D and make money off cancer patients.

As a shingles sufferer and a cold-sore sufferer, I take Lysine ever day. I also have valcyclovir for bad outbreaks.

Maybe the cure to many diseases, and even cancer, is right before our eyes!

I am a male of 81 years, and had constant cold sores since childhood, but none or very few the last 25 years. I have absolutely no signs of Alzheimer’s disease. I exercise 7 days a week, hiking at 4 miles per hour, have a healthful diet and take no prescription meds as my blood pressure stays about 120/60, glucose around 95 and excellent cholesterol numbers.

Can you explain whether this research would indicate that people who had chicken pox or shingles are at risk? Thank you.

I’m a bit depressed. My mother had both, and I also have had problems with cold sores. Last spring I had an outbreak so horrible, it seemed out of control and kept spreading. I don’t know what set it off because I never had anything close to it before. I also have ADHD, and half the time I worry about that contributing. (My mom seemed to have that, as well.)

On the other hand, my father had both, and he had no signs of dementia.

To faithful listeners of your radio show, this is old news. Teri’s parting question of Dr. Dale Bredesen last August pulled out his reply that infections were one of the most salient risk factors. Thank you Joe and Teri!

Reading this, my thoughts went to my own mother who is 92 and shows no signs of dementia, even though she probably has HVS1 since she does get the occaisional “cold sore”.

The evidence is certainly compelling, but it would be interesting to study those with the virus who do not present with dementia.

Both herpes and Alzheimer’s are common..that’s like saying Alzheimer’s is caused by the common cold.

No one has mentioned this, so I will add our experience with HVS1. Thirty one years ago my 43 year old husband was stricken with viral encephalitis from which he almost died. Thankfully one doctor recognized that the cause could be HVSI, and this was confirmed with a brain biopsy. Before the virus could be stopped, he had lost a third of his frontal lobe. This virus seems to have an affinity for the human brain. Interestingly, when he was a child he had come down with a serious case of chickenpox and measles concurrently, developed impetigo, and was dangerously ill but survived.

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