Hundreds of patients could be given the drug COR388 after preliminary trials produced promising results. Researchers working on the drug analysed samples of brain tissue from patients who suffered from dementia when they died. They discovered that the samples contained higher than average levels of a bacterium known as Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) and toxins called gingipains. Tests conducted on mice revealed that gingipains can travel from the mouth to the brain, but that COR388 could prevent them from spreading.
Scientists suggest that gingipains facilitate the production of proteins known as beta amyloid and tatu, which are known to cause damage to brain cells and affect the ability to remember and retain memories. Researchers also found that P.gingivalis can be linked to rheumatoid arthritis and aspiration pneumonia.
Prof Jan Potempa, lead author of the study, explained that oral hygiene plays an instrumental role in our health throughout our lives, but stressed that those who have genetic risk factors that make them susceptible to dementia or rheumatoid arthritis should be particularly focused on maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
The drug COR388 has been developed by US company, Cortexyme Inc, which is renowned for producing medicines used to target neurological illnesses. A new trial, which involves a group of 570 patients who suffer from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, will start in the near future with results expected in 2021.
Prof Potempa, from the University of Louisville’s Dental School, is working with the drug firm on other compounds that could also destroy P.gingivalis.
In the UK alone, around 850,000 people are affected by dementia, and the figure is expected to reach 2 million by 2050.