Persistent infection as a driver of neurodegenerative disease:

This year I learned that Harvard’s Rudy Tanzi and Robert Moir started the Brain Microbiome Project. I consider this Project to be the single most important initiative in science at the moment. In fact, several months ago I travelled to Harvard, where Rudy and Rob personally showed me some of their data. While their results have not yet been published, the team has identified a brain microbiome that changes with age and in Alzheimer’s disease. However they are currently doing additional work to rule out any possible sources of contamination. The following 2018 studies support research on the brain microbiome + brain infection in general:

Multiscale Analysis of Independent Alzheimer’s Cohorts Finds Disruption of Molecular, Genetic, and Clinical Networks by Human Herpesvirus

Lead author: Joel Dudley, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York

The team detected a range of persistent viruses in the Alzheimer’s brain. These included herpesviruses, torque teno viruses, adenoviruses, and coronaviruses. They also performed a range of experiments which showed that HHV-6A in brain tissue is capable of regulating host molecular, clinical, and neuropathological networks in a manner that can contribute to inflammation and neuronal loss.

Paper highlight: “This study elucidates networks linking molecular, clinical, and neuropathological features with viral activity and is consistent with viral activity constituting a general feature of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Infection of Fungi and Bacteria in Brain Tissue From Elderly Persons and Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease

Lead author: Luis Carrasco, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.

The team used next generation sequencing + PCR + immunohistochemistry + antibody testing to search for fungi/bacteria in Alzheimer’s brains obtained from elderly control subjects. They identified range of fungi and bacteria in all brains. However, fungi from frontal cortex samples of the Alzheimer’s brains clustered together and differed from those of equivalent control subjects. The findings suggest that polymicrobial infection (pathogens acting together) may contribute to brain inflammation associated with neurological disorders.

Virus-like particles and enterovirus antigen found in the brainstem neurons of Parkinson’s disease

Lead author: Matthew Hannah, National Infection Service, Public Health England

Parkinson’s disease (PD) case: TEM image. There are intranuclear Virus Like Particles lining the internal face of the nuclear membrane of the nucleus (Hannah et al)

The team used both transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry to study autopsied brain samples obtained from patients with late-stage Parkinson’s disease. They identified virus-like particles + enterovirus antigen in Parkinson’s brainstorm neurons.

Evidence of Human Parvovirus B19 Infection in the Post-Mortem Brain Tissue of the Elderly

Lead author: Modra Murovska, Rīga Stradiņš University, Latvia. 

The team studied brain autopsies of elderly subjects w/ molecular tools, immunohistochemistry + microscopy. They detected Parovirus B19 in brain tissue from encephalopathy + control groups “suggesting virus persistence within the CNS throughout the host’s lifetime.”

Brain glial activation in fibromyalgia – A multi-site positron emission tomography investigation 

Lead author: Marco Loggia, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

The team used Positron Emission Tomography (brain scans) to show that brain glial cells were more active in patients with fibromyalgia as compared to heathy controls. Similar studies are underway for patients with the related inflammatory condition ME/CFS. The findings support a role for neuroinflammation in both disorders. And, as I state in my recent paper on ME/CFS, “these findings must be interpreted in light of novel infection-based paradigms and in concert with emerging data on the brain microbiome.”

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