Common Infections may Increase the Risk of Memory Decline: Study
Common Infections may Increase the Risk of Memory Decline: Studymcfarlandmo/Flickr

Exposure to common infections is linked to increased risk of brain and memory function, according to a recent study at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Miami.

Certain antibody levels that are caused by exposure to common infections such as Helicobacter pylori, herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 and cytomegalovirus can affect cognitive performance including memory, speed of mental processing, reasoning and planning ability and abstract thinking, according to researchers at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

"We were very interested in what were the risk factors for cognitive performance and decline," stated lead researcher Dr. Clinton Wright, scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute in a press release. Previous studies have already associated certain infections with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

The study tested 588 participants' blood samples and conducted brain function tests on them.  Half of the participants who took the brain function tests again after five years, showed that exposure to some infections are linked to health issues such as stroke, as well as atherosclerosis and inflammation. However, researchers still don't have an answer to the link between infections and memory decline.

The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University. "There is no evidence yet that treating these infections is beneficial," he added. The initial exposure to the viruses must have happened decades earlier and the damage may be the result of a steady process. "It would be great if treatment prevented these bad outcomes, but we're very far away from having that type of evidence", Wright added.