Both diseases lead to dire human suffering and dispiriting global social and economic impacts. Did we just find the secret to curing them?
OK just for the record, I have no medical qualifications whatsoever. Just an average but curious citizen wanting to do my little bit if I can find something I might just be able to visualize that could be a little bit helpful.
So, you know all about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) right. Terrible stuff, no cure; not to mention drugs that were supposed to fix it just being withdrawn (for good reason). Parkinson’s disease (PD) not quite so terrible but not good, seems to be spreading rapidly, drugs to attack symptoms but no cure either. Hundreds of millions affected globally.
What would you say it I was to posit we might have found the key to a cure for both? Especially given my signal lack of medical qualifications and so on. Whacko, and you’re probably right. But here goes.
A research team at (of all places) the University of Helsinki has just announced that it has found the cure to Parkinson’s, to wit a bacterium, no less. The finding flies in the face of all past Parkinson’s research, but that’s what usually happens right? It’s never the professionals who make the breakthroughs.
The bacterium is called (wait for it) Desulfovibrio (let’s call it DSV to make things easier). It’s one of the myriads of bacteria in your gut. The emerging thesis is that DSV colonizes the gut, mores up to your brain via the Vagus nerve then gets into your brain where it attacks the neurons that create the dopamine that serves as the fuel for muscles and movement. Hence why PD sufferers get movement disorders.
Kill the bacteria and you fix the cause (probably). But won’t actually cure Parkinson’s though because it has already damaged those poor neurons. But it’s a start and promises to slow down or halt the disease progression characteristic of PD. That’s way more than we have now.
Here the plot thickens. It turns out that researchers into Alzheimer’s have also found DSV in the intestines of people who have AD. Its also in the gut too, part of the microbiome. Alzheimer’s researchers are increasingly finding that DSV is disproportionately implicated in the chain of causation. Chances are that it is DSV that eventually leads to formation the amyloid plaques seen in the brains of AD victims, just like we see alpha-synuclein in the nervous systems of PD sufferers.
So, if you can rid of the DSV in AD sufferers maybe you could slow down or even halt the progression of AD too. Probably too late for a cure but at least it could stop the progression and pave the way for therapies to fix the brain damage cause by AD.
I guess many people would see this as crazed imaginings and they might even be right. But get this. Until the 1980s if you had a stomach ulcer your friendly GP would give you a pill to lower your stomach acid. It didn’t work.
An unknown Australian GP called Barry Marshall working in the Aussie outback did his own research and found out that the ulcers were caused by a gut bacterium called Heliobacter Pylori. He said that if you took a course of antibiotics for 2 weeks it would permanently cure the problem. The American medical establishment rejected his findings as being rubbish. But he was right and later received the Nobel prize for his work.
I know about this because I had an ulcer, read about his findings and against my GP’s strong advice took the antibiotics. It cured me in two weeks.
AD and PD are both neurogenerative diseases. What if DSV causes other neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and ALS? Altogether possible I would think.
I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more about the DSV bacterium. My prediction is that this finding is going to lead to new ways of controlling and even curing PD and AD, maybe sooner rather than later and even other neurodegenerative diseases.
Don’t dismiss the mavericks, even if they’re Australian (or Finnish).
When you subscribe to the blog, we will send you an e-mail when there are new updates on the site so you wouldn't miss them.