Most of us know that brushing and flossing can help to keep our smiles sparkling, but did you know that caring for your gums could also help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease?
Previous studies have linked gum disease to an elevated risk of Alzheimer’s, but new research has shed light on the connection between oral health and the progressive neurological condition. Researchers have found traces of bacteria linked to advanced gum disease, known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Tests conducted on mice revealed that it was possible for these strains of bacteria to travel around the body to the brain, and flagged toxic proteins secreted by this specific form of bacteria. This protein, known as gingipain, destroys neurons in the brain tissue. The presence of the bacteria also accelerated the production of amyloid beta, a form of plaque, which is connected to Alzheimer’s.
After discovering the bacteria, scientists analysed the impact of drugs used to inhibit the toxic proteins in mice, and found that they stopped neural degeneration.
The study authors suggested that the research highlighted the connection between specific strains of bacteria and gum disease and provided an insight into new treatment options. In light of the study findings, the team has developed a new drug, which they are hoping to test on humans as part of a clinical trial later in the year.
Prof Tara Spires-Jones, from the UK Dementia Research Institute, which is based at the University of Edinburgh, said that the drug trials involving mice provided positive news. She also added that it would be interesting to see the results of the human drug trials that are due to take place later this year.