Frequent cold sores aren't just unattractive. NY Daily News reported they could be an indicator of mental decline in the future.
HealthDay wrote that a new study suggests that older adults who harbor certain infections, such as the herpes cold sore virus, may have poorer memory and thinking abilities than their peers.
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center followed 1,625 men and women for about eight years, said NY Daily News. The average age at the start of the study was 69 years old.
The study participants were tested for antibodies in their blood including herpes simplex 1 and 2 and cytomegalovirus as well as two other infections, chlamydia pneumoniae (a respiratory infection) and helicobacter pylori (a stomach bacteria), wrote NY Daily News.
According to Fox News, each year researchers administered tests for memory and thinking abilities. Ultimately, the tests revealed that individuals with higher levels of infection in the body had a 25 percent increased risk of having memory problems than those with lower levels of infection.
“We found actually that a mathematical combination of all these pathogens is associated with cognition problems,” study author Dr. Mira Katan, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center, told Fox News.
“It's not just one pathogen, but the cumulative burden of all these infections. So it's bad if you have one infection, but it’s worse if you have several infections. This effect of several infections was associated with cognitive impairment."
But the findings, published in a recent issue of Neurology, do not prove the infections are to blame, cautioned WebMD.
"We can't make any definite conclusions about causality," Katan told HealthDay. "At this stage, you can just say there's an association."
Many people carry herpes simplex virus (HSV). One form, HSV-1, usually causes cold sores around the mouth, while HSV-2 is the main cause of genital herpes, explained MedlinePlus. Once a person is infected with either form of HSV, the virus remains dormant in the body's nerve cells and can be repeatedly reactivated.
HSV can also move to any part of the body, including the brain. For several decades, some researchers have speculated that chronic HSV infection might contribute to dementia, possibly by causing persistent inflammation, wrote WebMD.
The study also hinted that exercise might play a protective role, said HealthDay. The researchers found that infection "burden" was related to mental impairment only among sedentary people, not those who said they got some exercise. However, that needs further study.
Researchers think that only a controlled clinical trial can provide answers regarding herpes and memory, said MedlinePlus.
"Could Herpes Virus Affect Memory in Older Adults?: MedlinePlus." National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
Grush, Loren. "Cold sore virus may increase risk of memory problems | Fox News." Fox News - Breaking News Updates | Latest News Headlines | Photos & News Videos. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.
Miller, Tracy. "Cold sores and other forms of herpes virus linked to memory loss and cognitive problems: study - NY Daily News." Daily News America - Breaking national news, video, and photos - Homepage - NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
Norton, Amy. "Could Herpes Virus Affect Memory in Older Adults? – WebMD." WebMD - Better information. Better health. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
Norton, Amy. "Could Herpes Virus Affect Memory in Older Adults?" Current Health News | Latest | Consumer. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013.
Reviewed April 25, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith