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Gum Disease May Help Cause/Accelerate Loss of Memory & Alzheimer’s Disease; Small Molecule Inhibitors Designed to Block Neurotoxic Enzymes (Gingipains) Produced by Gum Disease Bacteria May Prove Helpful

Researchers have determined that gum disease (gingivitis) may play a decisive role in whether a person develops Alzheimer´s disease (AD) or not. "We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain," says researcher Piotr Mydel, PhD, at Broegelmanns Research Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway. The bacteria produce enzymes (gingipains) that destroy nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and, ultimately, Alzheimer´s. The research results of Dr. Mydel and his team were published in the January 23, 2019 issue of Science Advances. The open-access article is titled “Porphyromonas gingivalis in Alzheimer’s Disease Brains: Evidence for Disease Causation and Treatment with Small-Molecule Inhibitors.” Dr. Mydel points out that the bacteria is not causing Alzheimer´s alone, but the presence of these bacteria substantially raises the risk for developing the disease and the bacteria are also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease. However, the good news is that this study shows that there are some things you can do yourself to slow down Alzheimer´s. First--"Brush your teeth and use floss.” Dr. Mydel adds that it is important, if you have established gingivitis and have Alzheimer´s in your family, to go to your dentist regularly and clean your teeth properly. Researchers have previously discovered that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain where the harmful enzymes they excrete can destroy the nerve cells in the brain. Now, for the first time, Dr. Mydel has DNA-evidence for this process from human brains. Dr. Mydel and his colleagues examined 53 persons with Alzheimer´s and discovered the enzyme in 96 per cent of the cases. According to Dr. Mydel, this knowledge gives researchers a possible new approach for attacking Alzheimer´s disease. "We have managed to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer´s. We are planning to test this drug later this year, says Dr. Mydel.

In their article, Dr. Mydel and his co-authors noted the following. “We identified P. gingivalis DNA in AD brains and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of living subjects diagnosed with probable AD, suggesting that CSF P. gingivalis DNA may serve as a differential diagnostic marker. We developed and tested potent, selective, brain-penetrant, small-molecule gingipain inhibitors in vivo. Our results indicate that small-molecule inhibition of gingipains has the potential to be disease modifying in AD.”


The bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) is one of the main causes of infection in the gums. These bacteria cause chronic infection in the gums, but can move to the brain where they can damage nerve cells. Approximately 50 per cent of the human population have this bacterium in one or another form. Approximately 10 per cent of the individuals having this bacterium will develop serious gum disease, loose teeth, and have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer´s disease. In addition to Alzheimer’s, the P.gingivalis bacteria has been linked to rheumatism, COPD, and esophageal cancer.

[Press release] [Science Advances article]

[The Economic Times article] [Science Daily article]