Strong Link Between Alzheimer's Disease and Oral Bacteria
In one way or another, we have all been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it be caring for a loved one who has been stricken with the disease or watching as a friend or family member slowly declines and their fondest memories are erased, the heart-breaking disease has touched us all. As healthcare practitioners we take the health of our patients very seriously, and unfortunately we have seen many patients and loved ones suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study by scientists and researchers at Cortexyme, a privately held, clinical-stage pharmaceutical company, made links between an oral bacteria and one of the plaques often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The oral bacteria, Porphyromonas gingivalis (Pg), is one of the primary agents that contributes to the development of chronic periodontitis, something we see in our office all too often. The pharmaceutical company is in the early stages of developing a drug that would block the pathogen, Pg, and could halt the development and progression of the disease.
Now that researchers have been able to connect the pathogen/oral bacteria, Pg, to the increased production of the specific plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s the goal is to create an inhibitor that blocks the pathogen and in turn would halt or slow the progression and maybe even development of the disease. According to Stephen Dominy, MD, the chief scientific officer and cofounder of Cortexyme, “we have solid evidence connecting the intracellular, Gram-negative pathogen, Pg, and Alzheimer’s pathogenesis while also demonstrating the potential for a class of small-molecule therapies to change the trajectory of the disease.”
Scientists at Cortexyme began their studies by using mice to test what happens when various levels of the oral infection are present. In all cases the Pg led to an increased production of amyloid beta, a plaque commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists used their findings to create specific therapies targeting the Pg in test subjects. An article we recently read in Dentistry Today explained the study by saying, “Seeking to block Pg-driven neurotoxicity, the researchers designed a series of small-molecule therapies targeting Pg gingipain. They demonstrated that inhibition by COR388 reduced the bacterial load of an established Pg brain infection, blocked Aβ42 production, reduced inflammation, and protected neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that mediates memory and frequently atrophies early in AD development.” The article went on to confirm that, “In October of 2018, Cortexyme announced the results of its Phase 1b clinical trial of COR388 and called it safe and well tolerated in healthy older volunteers and AD patients when given at a range of doses for up to 28 days.”
While these findings by Cortexyme are very exciting, it is still early in the process and the company plans to continue their studies with larger clinical trials on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease. As oral health practitioners we take the health of our patients to heart and we love to hear that scientific advances are being made to fight a disease that is all too prevalent in our lives today. The fact that oral health is directly connected to this study puts it even more at the forefront of our minds and reiterates the importance of good oral hygiene and regular trips to your dentist.