Infections speed memory loss among those with Alzheimer's, study finds

Share this content:

Even the most minor infections or injuries can significantly hasten memory loss among people with Alzheimer's disease, according to a recently published study.

Alzheimer's patients with even mild infections can develop high levels of a protein called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), according to the study from the University of Southampton. TNF-a is linked with inflammation, and has been associated with both memory loss and dementia. Over the course of a six-month study, researchers evaluated the cognitive abilities and blood tests of 222 Alzheimer's patients. They then followed those patients to see if they developed any infections or injuries with inflammations. The 110 patients who did develop an injury or infection were found to lose memory twice as fast as those who remained healthy during the study.

Similarly, the researchers found that patients with elevated levels of TNF-a at the start of the study experienced memory loss at a significantly accelerated rate. High levels with no inflammatory infections were associated with a fourfold greater rate of memory loss, while high levels with inflammatory infection resulted in a tenfold greater rate of memory loss. Researchers say the report highlights the need for infection control measures, especially among Alzheimer's patients. The report appears in the Sept. 8 edition of Neurology.