Dementia: people hospitalized for infections are at higher risk

Dementia: people hospitalized for infections are at higher risk

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  • Dementia is a deterioration in memory, reasoning, behavior and the ability to carry out daily activities.
  • In 60 to 70% of cases, dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia affects 50 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Its causes are very varied: it can be the consequence of an illness or a trauma. Scientists have identified another potential explanation for the onset of dementia: neuroinflammation. A recent research, published in JAMA, shows that infections could cause this inflammation and increase the risk of dementia. In any case, they observe that people hospitalized for infections have a greater risk of suffering from dementia.

Dementia: what can be the link with infections?

Although neuroinflammation may arise as a result of overactive immune cells in the central nervous system, recent evidence suggests that the peripheral immune system may also be involved.”, say the authors. They add that levels of certain molecules linked to inflammation are higher in the brains of people with dementia or neurodegenerative diseases. “Additionally, neuroinflammation can persist long after a peripheral infection resolves, highlighting the potential impact that infections can have on the development of chronic diseases, including dementia..”

What infections are associated with dementia?

To confirm this hypothesis, the researchers used a database, which enabled them to obtain the medical information of approximately 16,000 people, not suffering from dementia at the start of the study, followed for 30 years. They identified people hospitalized with an infection, who were later diagnosed with dementia. 19% of participants suffered from dementia. “Those hospitalized for an infection had a 70% increased risk of later dementia.”, explains Ryan Demmer, co-author of the study. Rates of dementia were significantly higher in people hospitalized for infections of the respiratory tract, urinary tract, skin, blood and circulatory system, or affected by nosocomial infections. “VSThis analysis reduced the potential for reverse causation (i.e. undiagnosed dementia leading to infection) by removing cases of dementia identified within 3 years of hospitalization“, point out the authors.

Avoiding infections to limit the risk of cognitive decline

Infections are common and often preventableexplains RyanDemmer to the media MedPage Today. Our results suggest that measures aimed at reducing the risk of infection may also reduce the long-term risk of dementia. Knowledge of historical infections could also help prioritize patients for dementia screeningFurthermore, he points out that British data has demonstrated that Sars-CoV-2 infection may be associated with brain abnormalities and cognitive decline.

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