One physician believes it is possible, and offers a million dollars to any scientist who produces convincing evidence over the next three years.
Researchers are trying to find a mysterious source of Alzheimer's disease (AD). But what if it is no is it mysterious? What if it is caused by an embryo?
It is Dr. Leslie Norins, an infectious disease specialist, who can not help wondering – so much so that he created a public utility company, Alzheimer & # 39; s Germ Quest Inc. (AGQ).
The organization offers every researcher who produces convincing evidence of an "error" AD, earning a $ 1 million prize.
"I'm not guessing" that AD is caused by the embryo, "explained Norins. "I'm just saying yes, and there's so much death and suffering that we have to find out in one way or another."
What we know – and I do not know – about Alzheimer's
According to the Alzheimer's Association, 5.7 million Americans are currently living with AD.
Every 65 seconds another devastating diagnosis is made and until the mid-century is expected to become even more common: Someone will learn that he has AD every 33 seconds.
It is a merciless state that slowly dismantles both thinking and memory. So far, there is no way to prevent AD, heal it, or even permanently slow down the progress of its symptoms.
The disease was first discovered in 1906, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered shrunken nerve cells in the post-mortem brain of a patient who suffered from memory loss. Nevertheless, the awareness of the state did not start for good until the 1980s.
In the course of decades, scientists have made some key discoveries – for example, that there is a genetic component, and lifestyle factors such as a healthy diet, regular exercise and active social life can provide some protection.
However, the original cause (or causes) of AD remain elusive.
The most popular theory is still "tables and weaves".
Beta-amyloid is a protein that is broken down and washed out in healthy brains. But in people with AD, this protein hardens in a plaque that prevents nerve cells from working in the brain the way they should.
Also rubberizing works are fibers of another protein called tau, which transport nutrients between brain cells. In people with AD they are incomprehensibly tangled.
What is not understood yet is primarily the cause of these tablets and tangles. Obesity? Head damage? Silent strokes? High blood pressure? Family history of dementia? Progressive age? These are all risk factors associated with AD.
"There are many potential provocative and causal factors associated with AD, which makes the disease difficult to solve and understand," said Dr. Verna R. Porter, neuroscientist and director of dementia, Alzheimer's and neurocognitive disorders at Pacific Neuroscience. Institute at Providence Saint John & # 39; s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Can you "catch" Alzheimer?
Norins never planned to take such an acute interest in AD. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Duke Medical School, he studied immunology in Australia and then headed the laboratory at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He also spent over 40 years as the publisher of the medical bulletin.
But the city where he lives, Naples, Florida, is filled with retirees, and over the years, Norins began to learn more – and more – people diagnosed with AD.
"Purely of medical curiosity, I thought I should update myself for this ailment that I had not thought about in my medical school for 50 years," said Norins.
Given his infectious diseases, he wondered if the embryo could play a role, but was "stunned" by what he considered a lack of research, especially when it came to extensive testing of available antivirals or antibiotics as AD therapies.
For example, penicillin can treat both syphilis and Lyme disease, two infections known to lead to dementia.
"We've seen in the literature tips for at least a decade that it can contribute microbes [to AD]but this is a research area that is somewhat limited, "said Dr. Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and aid to the Alzheimer's Association." It simply did not increase the speed, usually because the study sizes are small or have mixed results. "
Nine months ago, wanting to stimulate both research and interest, Norins decided to create AGQ and its million-dollar prize. So far, 22 scientists from around the world have applied.
"There really is nothing to lose," said Norins.
If it turns out that AD is caused by a microbe or a parasite, "we may already have an anti-infective drug against it or develop it," he noted. "Perhaps we will be able to create a vaccine in the way we now vaccinate adults against shingles, influenza and pneumonia."
Great minds think similarly
Other experts in the field of AD think the same way. In the end, other deadly diseases such as AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and Zika have been caused by germs.
The human genome is "covered with the remains of human viruses," said Cory Funk, a senior scientist at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. "On average, every person [is carrying] 10 to 12 viruses, although they do not necessarily cause a full infection. "
To date, over 20 genes have been associated with AD, several of which are also associated with the immune system. Can the infection "turn on" one of these genes over time?
"I do not think there is any evidence for this [a virus] it can cause AD, but it can contribute to it, "said Funk.
He and his colleagues recently published a study in the journal Neuron, which found herpes virus strains in people afflicted with AD.
A separate study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience observed that patients treated with antiviral drugs for herpes simplex 1 (a genus causing herpes) or herpes simplex 2 (a sexually transmitted infection) had less AD later in life, "so at least this is the indication of such an early therapy power to prevent some AD cases later, "said Porter.
Norins gives scientists three years to gather evidence about a possible 'error' in AD. He calls it the long time of "Golden Haired".
"It can not be too short, like six months, because nobody would have time to collect data. It can not be too long, like 20 years, because it basically says we can not help the current generation of patients," said Norins. "Take the money from the grant and revolve for the next 5 to 10 years" is not a philosophy that appeals to me when 303 Americans die every day because of Alzheimer's.
For people who already have a diagnosis – or who take care of a close person from AD – three years will still seem like an eternity. In the meantime, scientists are continuing blood tests that can identify the early symptoms of the disease.
Drugs that may eventually be able to slow down the symptoms of AD are currently being tested in clinical trials.
"In the field of dementia research, today there is more optimism and excitement than ever before," said Fargo. "We're potentially on the verge of something that will change the game."
But it can only be guesses. However, everyone is hoping for a cure soon.