In addition to causing gum disease, the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis raises the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and may also cause Alzheimer’s to progress faster, according to a study published online in Science Advances.
“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” said researcher Piotr Mydel, PhD, of the University of Bergen in Norway.
While previous research has shown P. gingivalis can move from the mouth to the brain, this study is the first to produce DNA evidence from human brains. In 53 people with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Mydel and colleagues discovered an enzyme produced by P. gingivalis, which destroys nerve cells in the brain, in 96% of the cases.
The findings provide researchers with a possible drug pathway for delaying Alzheimer’s disease, according to Dr. Mydel.
“We have managed to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer’s,” he said. “We are planning to test this drug later this year.”
In the meantime, the researcher recommended regular brushing, flossing, and dentist visits to decrease Alzheimer’s disease risk.
Dominy SS, Lynch C, Ermini F, et al. Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer's disease brains: evidence for disease causation and treatment with small-molecule inhibitors. Science Advances. 2019 Jan 23;5(1):eaau3333.