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January 18, 2017
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Gram-negative Bacteria Implicated in Alzheimer’s Pathology

By Kristen Schepker, Assistant Editor

A group of investigators at the University of California, Davis MIND Institute made the surprising discovery that brain samples from late-onset Alzheimer's patients contained increased levels of Gram-negative bacterial molecules. While previous research has linked certain infections to a heightened risk of dementia, the UC Davis team's findings are the first to conclusively show elevated amounts of Gram-negative bacterial antigens in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. 

A host of Gram-negative bacteria, including Herpes AlzheimersEscherichia coli, Helicobacter pylori, Chlamydophila pneumoniae, Salmonella and Shigella, are pathogenic and can trigger disorders in various parts of the body. The UC Davis study, published late last year in the journal Neurology, adds to the growing evidence that these disease-causing bacteria might play a role in Alzheimer's pathology.

Zinhua Zhan and colleagues at the UC Davis Department of Neurology, looked at samples of gray and white matter from 24 people with clinically documented Alzhiemer's disease, and 18 age-matched controls. Specifically, the screened the brain samples for two key bacterial components--Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and E. coli K99 pili protein--which were measured using Western blots and immunocytochemistry. They also analyzed the brain tissue for DNA samples specific to E. coli.

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