Griffith University researchers are calling for more study to be conducted into how microorganisms contribute to the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor James St John

Professor James St John from Griffith’s Clem Jones Centre for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research and Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg from Menzies Health Institute Queensland were part of a global interdisciplinary team which formed to tackle the long-debated question — do microbes cause Alzheimer’s and other dementias for a subset of patients?

The research, published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, highlights the growing evidence of the role microorganisms play when it comes to the disease.

Professor St John said despite this, there is still a way to go as the causal role for infection in Alzheimer’s disease remains contentious.

“What we’d like to see is global collaboration using agreed methods to fast-track the research to ultimately drive production of treatments,” he said.

“This is an ambitious project requiring a multidisciplinary approach, but we need to pool our collective resources and expertise to determine whether microbiome analysis of peripheral samples can be validated as a means to accurately assess the identity and abundance of microbial species within the brain.”

Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg

Associate Professor Ekberg said a secondary aim would be to conduct a pilot study to determine if there is a correlation between microbiome identity/abundance and measures of cognition in normal control, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease patients.

“Ultimately, we’d like to devise a rapid, inexpensive, robust and accurate method to determine the extent and nature of the brain microbiome in individual patients,” she said.

“As a first step, we are establishing a ‘Smell Clinic’ at Griffith University to determine how microorganisms within the nose contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and how we can easily and cheaply detect early symptoms.

“This could have wider implications for other neurological and neurodegenerative conditions that have been associated with infection including other dementias, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a slowly progressive brain disorder, principally affecting the elderly, that culminates in devastating loss of memory and cognitive skills.

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The paper ‘Establishment of a consensus protocol to explore the brain pathobiome in patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease’ has been published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

3: Good Health and Well-being
UN Sustainable Development Goals 3: Good Health and Well-being