New study links gum disease and Alzheimer’s

15 July 2022
1 min read

Research published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience by Tufts University suggests a connection between F. nucleatum and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fusobacterium nucleatum (F. nucleatum) is a periodontal pathogen which proliferates in periodontal disease. Commonly, this bacterium affects the gums and jaw, left untreated it can result in unstable teeth or tooth loss.

Jake Jinkun Chen, professor of periodontology and director of the Division of Oral Biology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine said, “In this study, our lab is the first to find that Fusobacterium nucleatum can generate systemic inflammation and even infiltrate nervous system tissues and exacerbate the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease."

The first author of the paper, Hongle Wu, a post-doctoral fellow in the chemistry lab at the time of the studies publication, noted can also generate severe generalized inflammation, which is a symptom of many chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease.

The media outlet EurekaAlert explained that the teams’ findings suggest “that by targeting F. nucleatum they can slow the spread and progression of at least two epidemics—periodontal disease, which affects 47 per cent of U.S. adults over age 30, and Alzheimer's, which afflicts 6.5 million Americans currently, and is expected to increase to over 14 million by 2060.”

EurekaAlert went on to summarise,The latest research, done in mice, shows that F. nucleatum results in an abnormal proliferation of microglial cells, which are immune cells in the brain that normally remove damaged neurons and infections and help maintain the overall health of the central nervous system. This over-supply of microglial cells also created an increased inflammatory response, the researchers found. Chronic inflammation or infection is believed to be a key determinant in the cognitive decline that occurs as Alzheimer's disease progresses.”

“Possible links between periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s have been posited by scientists in the past,” explained Eureka Alert. “While the new research does not show that F. nucleatum-related periodontal disease leads directly to Alzheimer’s disease, the new study suggests that periodontal disease caused by F. nucleatum and left untreated or poorly treated could exacerbate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, Jake believes. Conversely, treating periodontal disease effectively in those who have early-stage Alzheimer's could potentially slow Alzheimer's progression.”

To widen the parameters of their research, Jake and his team are currently researching blocking the pathways between, not only periodontal disease and Alzheimer’s, but other inflammatory diseases linked to Type 2 diabetes using noncoding RNAs.