Researchers have called for Alzheimer’s patients who catch a cold or a stomach bug to be treated as a priority to prevent infections worsening their dementia.
Scientists from the University of Southampton found a link between the common infections and an increase in inflammation-like reactions in the brain, which could lead to a rise in the rate of cognitive decline.
The research, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, showed that sufferers who caught an infection had twice the rate of cognitive decline as those who did not.
Alzheimer’s Society head of research Dr Susanne Sorensen said: “Professionals treating people with Alzheimer’s disease also have a responsibility to be vigilant in their efforts to treat infections in people with Alzheimer’s disease early and effectively.
“It’s important that older people, people with dementia and carers treat any infection seriously and seek medical help.”
The study, which was published in Neurology and involved 300 people with mild to severe Alzheimer’s disease, analysed how inflammatory proteins released during an infection might affect the brain.