Infections and Other Injuries in Alzheimer's Patients Increases Memory Loss

A new study has found that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who suffer from infections and other kinds of bodily injuries are more likely to suffer from an increased amount of memory loss.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) who suffer from infections and other kinds of bodily injuries are more likely to suffer from an increased amount of memory loss, a new study published in a recent issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Individuals with AD who also suffered from respiratory, gastrointestinal, and other types of infections, as well as people with minor bumps and bruises, were more likely to have high levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in their bloodstreams than patients with AD who did not suffer from infections or other health issues. People with higher levels of the protein in their bloodstreams at the start of the study “had memory loss at four times the rate of those with low levels of the protein at the start of the study,” according to the researchers, which they say may also indicate chronic inflammation. Patients who had higher levels of the protein in their bloodstreams at the start of the study who also experienced infections and injuries “had memory loss at 10 times the rate” of those with low levels of the protein at the start and no infections of the course of the study.

The researchers took blood samples and tested the cognitive abilities of 222 people with Alzheimer’s disease, once at the beginning of the study, and then again on three separate occasions over the six-month study. Interviews with caregivers were used to determine whether or not the patients had experienced infections or accidental injuries that may have lead to inflammation.

“One might guess that people with a more rapid rate of cognitive decline are more susceptible to infections or injury, but we found no evidence to suggest that people with more severe dementia were more likely to have infections or injuries at the beginning of the study,” said study author Clive Holmes, MRCPsych, PhD, of the University of Southampton. “More research needs to be done to understand the role of tumor necrosis factor-alpha in the brain, but it’s possible that finding a way to reduce those levels could be beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease.”