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Strong evidence has emerged recently for the concept that herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) is a major risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This concept proposes that latent HSV1 in brain of carriers of the type 4 allele of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE-ε4) is reactivated intermittently by events such as immunosuppression, peripheral infection, and inflammation, the consequent damage accumulating, and culminating eventually in the development of AD. Population data to investigate this epidemiologically, e.g., to find if subjects treated with antivirals might be protected from developing dementia—are available in Taiwan, from the National Health Insurance Research Database, in which 99.9% of the population has been enrolled. This is being extensively mined for information on microbial infections and disease. Three publications have now appeared describing data on the development of senile dementia (SD), and the treatment of those with marked overt signs of disease caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV), or by HSV. The striking results show that the risk of SD is much greater in those who are HSV-seropositive than in seronegative subjects, and that antiviral treatment causes a dramatic decrease in number of subjects who later develop SD. It should be stressed that these results apply only to those with severe cases of HSV1 or VZV infection, but when considered with the over 150 publications that strongly support an HSV1 role in AD, they greatly justify usage of antiherpes antivirals to treat AD. Three other studies are described which directly relate to HSV1 and AD: they deal respectively with lysosomal changes in HSV1-infected cell cultures, with evidence for a role of human herpes virus type 6 and 7 (HHV6 and HHV7) in AD, and viral effects on host gene expression, and with the antiviral characteristics of beta amyloid (Aβ). Three indirectly relevant studies deal respectively with schizophrenia, relating to antiviral treatment to target HSV1, with the likelihood that HSV1 is a cause of fibromyalgia (FM), and with FM being associated with later development of SD. Studies on the link between epilepsy, AD and herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) are described also, as are the possible roles of APOE-ε4, HHV6 and HSV1 in epilepsy.
Discussion of this review by hard-core virologists in the most recent episode of the podcast This Week in Virology: http://www.microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-519/