A study conducted by scientists at the University of New Mexico, Brown University and House Ear Institute found a link between the herpes virus and Alzheimer’s disease. Their findings suggest that re-activation or growth of herpes contributes to the likelihood of developing dementia later in life.
“Herpes infects mucous membranes, such as the lip or eye, and generates viral particles,” said principal investigator of the study Dr. Elaine Bearer. “These viral particles burst out of the cells of the mucous membrane and enter sensory nerve cells where they travel inside the nerve toward the brain.”
The researchers were able to find this link by “tagging” herpes-infected cells with green fluorescent protein. They then tracked the course that these cells took after breaking free from the mucous membranes.
In the U.S., as much as 60 percent of the 20-to-30-year-old population has contracted herpes. Around 85 percent of those in later chapters of life are infected with the sexually transmitted infection (STI).
According to WebMD, wearing condoms can greatly reduce one’s risk of contracting herpes. Safe sex also protects against a number of other STIs.