HSV1 in Alzheimer’s disease: Myth or reality?
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Špeljko, T., Jutric, D. & Šimić, G. Translat.Neurosci. (2011) 2: 61. doi:10.2478/s13380-011-0009-2
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most frequent cause of dementia in the elderly, characterized by the presence of cerebral amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The causes of the disease are not well understood, especially considering that more than 95% of AD patients are non-familial. Due to the similarity of brain regions affected in herpes simplex encephalitis to those mainly affected in AD, and owing to the very high prevalence of latent herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) infection, reactivation of HSV1 was proposed as one of the possible causes of AD. The trigeminal ganglion, located only a few millimeters from the entorhinal cortex, is the primary site of HSV1 latency, although other sites including the sensory neurons, the nodose ganglion of the vagus nerve and other regions of the brain may be involved, possibly in relation to very early neurofibrillary AD changes in the dorsal raphe, locus coeruleus and other brainstem nuclei. Novel data obtained upon infection of cultured neuronal cells and mouse brain with HSV1 further show that HSV1 infection causes intracellular amyloid-beta protein accumulation, as well as abnormal phosphorylation of tau protein, the major component of tangles. Another interesting fact is the existence of a significant degree of homology between HSV1 components and AD susceptibility genes. In this review we summarize findings that reveal connections between the two conditions, as well as different suggestions for the mechanisms of HSV1-induced AD. As most of the available results support a connection of AD and HSV1 infection, antiviral therapy should be taken into consideration for AD treatment following early diagnosis.