Links between gum inflammation and Alzheimer’s
With recent discussion in the press on the links between inflammation and Alzheimer’s Dr Joanne Konkel from the Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation discusses the links between Gum Inflammation and Alzheimers.
Periodontitis is the most common chronic inflammatory disorder of mankind, affecting almost 50% of the global population. This prevalent inflammatory disease is driven by an inappropriate immune response to the commensal bacteria that live on the surface of our teeth and results in destruction of tooth supporting structures and ultimately teeth. This disease is not only incredibly common but, individuals with periodontitis are at an increase risk of developing a plethora of other systemic inflammatory conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis, to complications during pregnancy and cardiovascular diseases. So how does poor oral health contribute the development and/or exacerbation of diseases at distal sites?
A recent study in Science Advances has highlighted a link between periodontitis and Alzheimer’s disease. Examining whether Alzheimer’s could have an infectious trigger, the report demonstrated that Porphyromonas gingivalis (P gingivalis), a key oral bacteria, could be found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients post mortum. Moreover, they also identified gingipains, a unique toxin produced by this periodontitis associated bacteria, in the same brain samples. In preclinical mouse models infected with P gingivalis, the researchers could also detect the bacteria in the mouse’s brains, alongside neurological signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Examining how the gingipains could contribute to neuro-degeneration, the authors reported that they could damage a protein called tau, a key protein found in neurons and which is dysfunctional in Alzheimer’s patients. Importantly, blocking gingipain activity protected against the development of neurological damage in mice infected with P gingivalis.
This study contributes to a growing body of evidence highlighting the importance of better understanding how our immune system operates in our mouths to contain oral bacteria, maintain health and prevent the development of periodontitis. With this a new paradigm emerges, encouraging a more holistic approach to treating those with inflammatory conditions or at risk of developing certain diseases and highlighting that maintaining good oral health should be a priority.
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- Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s disease brains: Evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors Science Advances 23 Jan 2019: Vol. 5, no. 1, eaau3333DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3333