New research has discovered a link between cold sores and Alzheimer's disease.
According to research published in a pair of studies in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia, there is a link between infections of herpes simplex virus and a risk of developing the degenerative condition.
One of the researchers involved in the studies, Hugo Lövheim, associate professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Geriatric Medicine, Umeå University, explained that the findings could lead to new treatments being developed for the condition.
Research by Professor Lövheim and Fredrik Elgh, professor at the Department of Virology, discovered that a weakened immune system among older people creates opportunities for the herpes simplex virus to spread further to the brain. Once a person has contracted the virus, they carry it for the rest of their lives. Most of the population has the herpes simplex virus.
"Something which makes this hypothesis very interesting is that now herpes infection can in principle be treated with antiviral agents," said Professor Lövheim.
"Therefore within a few years we hope to be able to start studies in which we will also try treating patients to prevent the development of Alzheimer's disease."
Alzheimer's is one of the most common types of dementia, affecting almost 500,000 people in the UK alone, according to figures from the NHS.
The causes of the disease remain mostly unknown and there is no cure for it, with the symptoms gradually worsening over a long period of time. People a family history of the condition may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's later in their life.
Recent research also found that individuals who have a very low level of vitamin D in their blood may be twice as likely to develop dementia. The study was led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter and the findings were published in the journal Neurology.
Read more about Barchester's dementia care homes