Do you know what the commonest bacterial infection is?
Urinary tract? Middle ear? Throat?
No, it's none of these - believe it or not, it's the gums. For years I have come back from expeditions with gingivitis. Sore, swollen gums. Bleeding on brushing. Smelly breath. You get the picture. The combination of lax dental hygiene and an extraordinary "sweet tooth" at high altitude has been mostly to blame. Sometimes this has left me with symptoms for a year or more after returning. Working out how to treat ginigivitis quickly has only come about later in life - the combination of daily flossing, brushing and crucially, the use of a chlorhexidine mouth wash, have been the key to success. Why am I sharing all this with you? Yes of course, good oral hygiene is important, but it's also becoming increasingly clear that Porphyromonas Gingivalis, one of the bacteria responsible for gum disease, might play a significant role in the development of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).
Porphyromonas Gingivalis is commonly found in the upper gastrointestinal tract and plays an important role in the development of gum disease
AD is rapidly becoming a public health emergency. Dementia is now the fifth largest cause of death worldwide and AD is responsible for two thirds of all cases. For many years it was thought that AD was due to a build up of proteins in the brain and dozens of drugs were designed to reduce them. However, the vast majority of these have been ineffective. This has led investigators to look further afield and explore other potential links.
What then does P. Gingivalis do? According to researchers at Cortexyme, the bacteria releases gingipains that are capable of breaking down ApoE proteins. These are essential for healthy nerve connections and are responsible for controlling immune responses in the brain. A new drug COR 388 is currently being tested that blocks the activity of gingipains and prevents protein damage. Recruiting almost 600 patients with mild to moderate AD, researchers plan to track disease progression and see if COR 388 makes a real difference to the lives of sufferers. Results are due out in 2021, but in the meantime, why not make the effort and take special care of your gums?
Interested in mountain medicine? For more details take a look at this!
Unfortunately this event has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Future events will be publicised on the blog soon!