Can infections make Alzheimer’s worse?

Southampton researchers want to find out whether infections that increase inflammation could tip the balance in favour of Alzheimer’s disease.



The aim of this project is to determine whether infections, which give rise to inflammation, may act as a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease. Infections could therefore be another important risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and may be the reason why the disease sometimes progresses faster.

The findings of this study could have important implications for how infection is managed in the elderly and help to develop strategies to slow the progression of the disease. Understanding the role of the immune system in Alzheimer’s disease may also lead to the development of new drugs.

Dr Boche will use generously donated brain samples from patients who had Alzheimer’s disease and use doctors’ notes to determine whether they had a systemic infection when they died. She will look at the immune cells in their brain under a microscope and determine whether infection causes distinct changes in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease compared to those without. She will also investigate whether an infection might trigger the release of chemicals from immune cells called microglia that could make Alzheimer’s disease worse. This will help understand the bigger picture of how infection affects inflammation in the brain and how this contributes to disease.

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Awarded to
Dr Delphine Boche

University of Southampton

Current Award

1 January 2013 - 1 June 2015

Full project name
Investigation into the impact of systemic inflammation due to infection on microglial phenotype and its contribution to Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology