Infections linked to mental decline in elderly

shed tests, the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR). Cognitive impairment is associated with dementia in old age.

Scientists compared the MMSE and CDR scores of patients when they entered the DEBATE study with the scores of 348 patients who were alive and retested one year later.

The maximum score on the MMSE is 30, and a score below 24 points usually indicates clinically significant cognitive impairment, says Strandberg, a senior lecturer at the University of Helsinki and a senior researcher at the Academy of Finland.

"We found a significant association between cognitive status and the viral burden at baseline," Strandberg says. At baseline, participants with exposure to all three viruses were 2.5 times more likely to have cognitive impairment than those with antibodies to fewer than three. MMSE scores declined as viral burden increased: average MMSE was 26.9 for those showing infection by zero or one virus; 26.5 for those with antibodies to two viruses, and 25.8 for participants with antibodies to all three of the viruses. The median MMSE score for those entering the DEBATE study was 27 with 58 participants scoring below 24. Forty-eight individuals had antibodies to none or one of the viruses; 229 showed previous infection by two viruses; and 106 had antibodies to all three.

In addition, abnormal clinical dementia rating scores were found in 4.9 percent of participants with exposure to zero or one virus, in 16.2 percent of those exposed to two viruses, and in 26.9 percent of participants exposed to all three.

At one year, the risk for cognitive impairment was 2.3 times higher for people with antibodies to all three viruses and 1.8 times higher for those with antibodies to two compared to those with one or no antibodies.

Researchers also tested patients for infection by the two bacteria: Chlamydia pneumoniae, which causes respiratory diseases, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which causes "w

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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