Scientist have found that toxic bacteria in gum disease can travel to the brain, which could raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life.
Gum disease, which causes bad breath and bleeding gums, has long been linked to chronic health problems, including heart disease and dementia.
But a US study has proved for the first time that the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis, a major cause of gum disease, can move from the mouth to the brain in mice, which suffered damage to cells in the hippocampus – the brain region important for memory. The scientists then tested the brains of 53 people with Alzheimer’s disease, finding the toxic enzymes from P.?gingivalis in 51 of them.
The findings suggest people who brush their teeth properly could lower their risk of developing dementia as they get older.
The study, by US company Cortexyme, says P.?gingivalis plays a ‘central role’ in the development of Alzheimer’s. Chief executive Casey Lynch said: ‘This study is an important breakthrough in understanding how Alzheimer’s disease can be triggered and a new path to treatment.’
The study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests a treatment may be in sight that can block the enzymes and save brain cells. Clinical trials on Alzheimer’s patients will be carried out this year.