Infections linked to mental decline in elderly

DALLAS, Aug. 15 Infection by several common viruses can significantly increase the risk of dementia in the elderly with cardiovascular disease, according to a report in today's rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Finnish researchers tested 383 cardiovascular disease patients for antibodies to the viruses herpes simplex type 1 (HSV1), herpes simplex type 2 (HSV2), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Antibodies in the blood indicate a current or previous infection by the viruses.

People with antibodies to two of the viruses had a 1.8 times greater risk of dementia than those infected by none or one of the viruses. Those infected by all three viruses had a 2.3 times higher risk. The researchers selected the three viruses because several studies have suggested a link between each of them and dementia.

"Inflammation has been implicated in dementia, and viral infections could be a triggering factor," says lead author Timo E. Strandberg, M.D., Ph.D. "Our findings should be tested in other studies, but if these viruses are involved, there are existing therapies such as vaccination and antiviral drugs that could be used to prevent or treat dementia."

HSV1 causes cold sores and HSV2 is a sexually transmitted disease. CMV infects between 50 percent and 85 percent of U.S. adults by age 40, but it causes few symptoms and no long term health consequences in most healthy persons if they acquire it after birth.

The study involved participants in Finland's Drugs and Evidence-Based Medicine in the Elderly (DEBATE) study, an effort to seek out prevention strategies for several diseases.

All participants had atherosclerosis and lived at home when they began the study. Their average age was 80; 65 percent were female; 82 percent had coronary artery disease, and 37 percent had suffered at least one stroke.

As part of the DEBATE study, researchers assessed patients' cognitive abilities each year using two well establi

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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