Can Herpes Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?

Tenofovir gel may reduce the risk of contracting herpes. Image courtesy of the CDC.
Tenofovir gel may reduce the risk of contracting herpes. Image courtesy of the CDC.
A handful of studies indicate that older people with active herpes virus may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's

A recent editorial published in the prestigious Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease is causing something of a tizzy this week as it argues that bacterial and viral infections, including herpes, may be responsible for causing the neurocognitive disorder.

The editorial, written by 33 scientists and clinicians from 12 countries, was met by skepticism from many others in the psychiatric community. For example, John Hardy, PhD, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, told The Telegraph newspaper, “This is a minority view in Alzheimer research. There had been no convincing proof of infections causing Alzheimer disease. We need always to keep an open mind but this editorial does not reflect what most researchers think about Alzheimer disease.”

The editorial argues that while microbes have been thought to be involved in Alzheimer’s for decades, most of the research has been dismissed as controversial. In addition, they emphasize that many who oppose the idea of a link between infection and Alzheimer’s do so based on opinion, rather than scientific evidence.

The piece further states that research has shown that mice that are infected with viruses ended up with deposits of amyloid, the toxic protein plaque thought to be at the root of Alzheimer’s.  They further cite recent research from Harvard university that has found that amyloid protein  may also act as a defense mechanism to fight off microbes.

Tthe editorial stresses the need additional research into a potential connection between bacteria, viruses and Alzheimer’s, including trials of antimicrobial drugs in stopping the disease.


Itzaki RF, et al. Microbes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Editorial. J Alzheimers Dis. 2016; doi:10.3233/JAD-160152