May 22, 2008, Amsterdam A number of chronic diseases are in fact caused by one or more infectious agents. For example, stomach ulcers are caused by Helicobacter pylori, chronic lung disease in newborns and chronic asthma in adults are both caused by Mycoplasmas and Chlamydia pneumonia, while some other pathogens have been associated with atherosclerosis. The realization that pathogens can produce slowly progressive chronic diseases has opened new lines of research into Alzheimers disease.
In a special issue of the Journal of Alzheimers Disease published May 2008, guest editors Judith Miklossy, from The University of British Columbia, and Ralph N. Martins, from Edith Cowan University and Hollywood Private Hospital, Perth, Western Australia, and a group of experts explore this exciting topic.
Alzheimers disease (AD), the most frequent cause of dementia, is a form of amyloidosis. It has been known for a century that dementia, brain atrophy and amyloidosis can be caused by chronic bacterial infections, namely by Treponema pallidum in the atrophic form of general paresis in syphilis. Bacteria and viruses are powerful stimulators of inflammation. It was suggested by Alois Alzheimer and his colleagues a century ago that microorganisms may be contributors in the generation of senile plaques in AD.
The fact that pathogens may suppress, subvert or evade host defenses and establish chronic or latent infection has received little attention in the past. During infection, active oxygen and nitrogen species generated by inflammatory cells may cause DNA damage, induce apoptosis, and modulate enzyme activities and gene expression. Depending upon the biology of the pathogen and the host defense mechanisms the organism can persist in the infected tissues and cause chronic inflammation and amyloid deposition. The outcome of infection is as much determined by the genetic predisposition of the patient as by the virulence and biology of the infecting agent
|Contact: Astrid Engelen|