Tag Archives: Health

Is Alzheimer’s caused by the Gum Disease Bacterium P. Gingivalis – A Dementia Prevention/Treatment Breakthrough?

Research just published presents evidence of a causal link between the microbe causing common gum disease and Alzheimer’s. This exciting discovery opens up the possibility of dementia prevention and treatment in totally unexpected ways. There may be a powerful preventative tool in every bathroom!

Alzheimer’s link to Gum Disease Bacterium P Gingivalis – Preventative Tool

As a former Bacteriologist I and many in the medical scientific community have become very excited by research published in the respected, peer reviewed, scientific journal Science Advances on 23rd Jan. 2019 (link to original paper is here).

The research presents evidence that the common gum disease bacterium P. gingivalis may be involved in causing Alzheimer’s disease and proposes an approach to treating the disease that attacks the neuron damaging proteins produced by the microbe.

When did you last visit your dental hygienist?

We always have to be cautious about giving too much credence to ‘miracle cures’ until they have been repeated by other scientists and proven in large scale human trials but the results of this piece of work come very close to fulfilling Koch’s postulates – a set of criteria acknowledged by medical scientists as necessary to prove that a microbe is the cause of a particular disease (Robert Koch formulated the germ theory of disease).

If confirmed this would not be the first time we have had to throw away previous ideas about the causes of a commonly occurring disease. I remember many years ago when I lived in Tokyo, one of my colleagues was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. He was told that this was probably caused by stress or diet (or both) and needed to find ways to modify his lifestyle (difficult if you are a businessman in Japan!) and take medications to reduce his stomach acid. A few years later the Australian doctor Barry Marshall discovered that stomach ulcers were caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (and received a Nobel prize for his work). This led to a totally different approach to treatment.

Know the entry point!

Alzheimer’s disease has for many years been associated with the increased incidence of two proteins in the brain called amyloid and tau (the so called ‘sticky plaques’). It was thought (as with high stomach acid and ulcers) that these proteins may in some way be ‘causing’ dementia and much research has been put into trying to find ways of reducing the presence of these proteins in the brain. To date this approach has not been very successful.

What if these proteins, rather than causing Alzheimer’s, are actually the body’s way of fighting off a harmful bacterial infection? In fact such plaques have been found in the brains of people in their 90s with no sign of dementia! In 2016 scientists did indeed discover that the amyloid protein seems to be produced by cells as a sticky defence against bacteria.

Is this a sign of a healthy brain?

A important clue connecting gum disease with Alzheimer’s came in research published in the BMJ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (28th Oct 2009 link to paper is here). In this J.M.Nobel and coworkers found that levels of a periodontis (gum disease) were linked to the impaired delayed memory and impaired calculation symptoms typical of dementia. At that time it wasn’t clear if the damaged brain was allowing the microbes to invade it or whether the bugs were actually causing the brain damage (the two were linked – but which one was the cause?).

At this point several research teams started to focus more on the relationship between gum disease microbe P. gingivalis and Alzheimer’s disease. Mice, genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s were found to have increased Alzheimer’s symptoms following infection with the gum disease microbe. P. gingivalis has also been found to invade and cause inflamation in the brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s in humans. The microbe can also lead to typical Alzheimer’s brain inflation, neuron (brain nerve cell) damage and amyloid protein plaques in healthy mice.

Medical practices have improved considerably since the middle ages

In the latest research (published on 23rd Jan 2019) two poisonous proteins which P. gingivalis uses to ‘eat’ human tissues were found in 99 and 96% of human brain samples from 54 Alzheimer’s patients’ hippocampus (the part of the brain involved in memory). These bacterial poisons are called gingipains and were also found in parts of the brain producing high levels of the alzheimer’s tau protein (and thus also linked to cognitive decline).

This team also looked for, and found, P. gingivalis DNA in the part of the brain involved in conceptual thinking, the cerebral cortex, in the brains of three Alzheimer’s patients.

A unique feature of this report is that it demonstrated the presence of the common gum disease bacterium DNA in human brains and it showed that the bacterial poisons (gingipains) were in the same location as the plaques typically associated with Alzheimer’s.

One thing that makes the team confident P. gingivalis may be the ‘cause‘ of Alzheimer’s rather than its ‘result‘ relates to the fact that some people with no symptoms of  dementia can have small levels of P. gingivalis as well as plaque proteins in their brain. This indicates that the microbes are invading the brain before symptoms of Alzheimer’s become apparent – it is known that the plaque proteins (amyloid and tau) can accumulate in the brain for 10-20 years before external symptoms of dementia appear.

More evidence that the gum disease bacteria actually ’cause’ Alzheimer’s came from studies in which mice were given P. gingivalis. This lead to brain infection by the bacterium, production of the amyloid protein, tangling of tau proteins (= plaques) and brain cell (neuron) damage in those areas normally affected by Alzheimer’s.

More work is needed to determine how P. gingivalis gets into the brain. If dental plaque is allowed to build up underneath your gums localised areas of inflammation can build up where the microbe thrives and releases its poisonous tissue destroying proteins (= bad breath!). Interestingly people with fewer teeth (a symptom of chronic periodontitis) are also more likely to have dementia.

As the P. gingivalis destroys the tissues around the inflamed gums it can enter the blood stream and get to other parts of the body. It may also enter the blood if the gums are damaged through disease, eating or incorrect brushing. Although typically the blood brain barrier protects us from microbes entering the brain we know that P. gingivalis can get inside white blood cells and the cells lining blood vessels. This could be how it can get into the brain. Another route to the brain may be via nerve cells near the mouth – the microbes could travel along these nerve highways into the brain.

Once it is in the brain there are two possible ways these bacteria can cause damage. On the one hand they may encourage the production of high amounts of amyloid – the body’s defence against bacterial attack – which then leads to inflammatory damage by the immune system. Alternatively the microbe could use its gingipain proteins to damage brain tissues in the same way it destroys tissues elsewhere in the body. The kind of inflammation in your gums might also be taking place in your brain!

Could this also be happening in your brain?

If it is confirmed that this is a cause of Alzheimer’s disease (there could well be more than one cause) it opens up some interesting possibilities regarding prevention and treatment. Not everyone develops gum disease (good dental hygiene is key here) and not everyone with gum disease develops dementia – so presumably the actual level of damage/inflammation could play a key role. Also genetic factors will influence a person’s susceptibility to the progression of the disease

We can expect a lot of research to now be undertaken into how the brain can be helped to defend itself against Porphyromonas gingivalis infections. These bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance (not surprising as they live in the cavity into which we pour most of our antibiotic prescriptions!) so this approach may be limited in effectiveness. One exciting area of research could be aimed at attacking the bacterial toxins (the gingipains) which are known to attack a particular amino acid in the immune system’s defence protein ApoE (patients with a mutant of ApoE having an excess of this amino acid are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s).

I. for one, will be turning up with increased enthusiasm at my 6 monthly appointment with the dental hygienist next week!

If you found this interesting please visit my (mainly) health focused blog again – here is the link). If you become a ‘follower’ you will get an alert when a new article is published.

Chris Duggleby 

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Snow Returns (or King Richard and the Fairy Warriors)!

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STOP PRESS!! Have you tried the YouTube Playlist featuring all of my compositions for the TRANSFORMATES? Here it is:

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After another exciting week eradicating business risk with the RiskBusters the time arrived for my weekend vaunt into the mountains. Helga, the friendly car rental lady, was already dangling my key-ring on her finger as I approached her counter on arrival at the alpine airport. Hello Mister “Dog-I’ll-buy” I have something extra special to give you in the VIP car park this week.

Snow Back for April in Heidi Land
Snow Back for April in Bavarian ‘Heidi’ Land

Perhaps at this point I should explain why Helga now refers to me as Mr. “Dog-I’ll-Buy”. After hearing many variations of her attempts to pronounce Duggleby I decided to make it a bit easier for her. I explained that my name was derived from my ancestor Sir Henry Dog-I’ll-Buy in the North of England. Sir Henry was King Richard the Lionheart’s official dog purchaser. The English Royal Family is famous for its love of dogs, especially Corgis. During the third Crusade whenever they arrived in a new town or village Sir Henry would go through the streets in front of the King shouting ‘Dog I’ll Buy, Dog I’ll Buy’. I explained to Helga that according to Welsh folklore the Corgi was the preferred mount of fairy warriors and King Richard paid especially well whenever Sir Henry found this magical companion for him.

As was common in the 12th century Sir Henry’s trade became his name. Over the centuries the name “Dog-I’ll-Buy” evolved into Duggleby. I showed her using Google Map the village in the North of England where Sir Henry and his descendants lived. Needless to say there are not many dogs there these days, especially Corgis.

Helga now pronounces my name almost perfectly and I appear to have become something of a celebrity within the airport car hire fraternity. They regularly ask me how are things in the royal dog trade.

So, you may ask, what special treat did Helga give me in the VIP car park? This week’s vehicle was an A3 Convertible. At this point I had no further need for a weekend weather forecast. I drove to my apartment in the dark, parked my little topless beauty and went to bed. The next morning I woke up to see that overnight the whole village had acquired a carpet of pristine white snow. Fortunately I had left the semi naked convertible in my garage.

Although my alpine village gets lots of snow in the winter I manage to escape most of it due to my annual quest to find new sources of vitamin D in the southern hemisphere. This means that for me snow, in moderate doses, can be a bit of a treat. I slipped into some warm clothing, packed the tripod and camera into my rucksack, and headed up the local mountain stream to gets some photo’s of the snowy waterfalls.

Author by the Mountain 'Bach'
Author (Chris Duggleby in tights!) by the Mountain ‘Bach’ (Bad Feilnbach Waterfalls, Bavaria)

It is amazing to think that a week earlier my son Pascal and I had been sitting in shorts and t-shirts in the garden of our local alpine restaurant. Compare this week’s pictures with the ones I published two weeks ago. Within the space of a week the temperatures had dropped over 20 degrees!

I decided that it would be sensible not to take the convertible to the local supermarket. My neighbours know that the Brits can be somewhat ‘interesting’ but I prefer not to overdo it. Just wait until I tell them the story about Sir Henry, official buyer of the King’s dogs!

The Wendelstein taken from the Balcony
The Wendelstein mountain taken from the balcony – still snow capped, still beautiful 

(There is actually another chapter to this story in which Sir Henry Dog-I’ll-Buy had to sell the Royal dogs to help Eleanor of Aquitaine raise the ransom demanded by Duke Leopold V of Austria. This unfriendly gentleman had imprisoned King Richard in Dürnstein Castle on his way back from the 3rd Crusade. The ransom money played a major part in financing the creation of Wiener Neustadt in 1194 – should be worth a few free drinks next time I visit Vienna).

Snow Back for April by the Waterfalls
Snow Back for April by the Bad Feilnbach Waterfalls (Spot the chilly head!)

P.S. Some dog related aspects of this story have been passed down through the family by word of mouth (and via my grandmothers rather messy recipe book) and therefore the documentary evidence may be rather suspect. The stuff that is properly evidence based can be found under the Duggleby History page – just click on the link here

Recycling in Style!

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STOP PRESS!! Have you tried the YouTube Playlist featuring all of my compositions for the TRANSFORMATES? Here it is:

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Although this is only my second weekend in the mountains the recycling waste builds up quickly (helped by five months of junk mail in the post box). So on Sunday I made one of my regular trips to the local recycling centre. This is not any old waste centre – in fact I think this is one of the most scenic trips to the rubbish dump you can imagine. It is probably best to describe it using pictures so I made sure I took my camera – a bit of a challenge as it had to travel in the same rucksack as the rubbish.

Heidi Country on the way back from the Rubbish Dump!
Heidi Country – part of my extended but scenic trip to the local recycling centre.

My weekend alpine retreat is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is traversed by numerous mountain streams accompanied by their associated waterfalls. It is, in fact, a Spa resort and is well known for its ‘Wellness’ Clinics – we get many health tourists, especially in the summer. The local Authorities have gone to a lot of trouble to create lots of pleasant and interesting walks for visitors and residents. Many of these follow the streams. You guessed it: one of these walks happens to go from my house to the recycling centre!

Alpine Stream on the Way to Rubbish Dump
Alpine Stream which makes my trip to the Bad Feilnbach rubbish dump a pleasant experience

I normally follow the stream downhill to the ‘dump’ with my rucksack of rubbish (and camera) and then follow a more strenuous route home. The walk is important because on my less energetic weekends this, and a walk to the local supermarket, may be my only exercise (I will talk about the more energetic weekends in another blog entry).

Waterfall on the Way Back from Rubbish Dump
Cascade of waterfalls on the journey to the local recycling centre

On the return route I take a stroll up the hill through ‘Heidi’ country walking past the grazing cows with their rather noisy cowbells around their necks. This is not a bad idea as it is very easy for the cows to stray into the woods and get lost. My journey also takes me through a mountain forest rising gradually until I reach the mountain stream I followed earlier but higher up the mountain. I can then follow this all the way back down to my house. The many waterfalls along this mountain stream or ‘Bach’, together with the oxygen from the trees, create a very refreshing atmosphere.

Lake and Waterfall on Way Back from Rubbish Dump
Lake and waterfall on way back from the rubbish dump in Bad Feilnbach, Bavaria

The round trip to the waste centre takes about 90 minutes and in addition to doing my bit for the environment I feel that the mountain walk has ensured the environment has also done its bit for me. After this peace and tranquillity I am ready for another week of excitement with the RiskBusters in London pushing forward the frontiers of risk management in big business.

Not bad for a trip to the rubbish dump eh?

Until next time….

Author after doing his 'bit' for the Environment
Chris Duggleby (Author) after doing his ‘bit’ for the environment (and his ageing body!)