http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/346822

Can cold sores increase the risk of memory problems?

Posted Mar 30, 2013 by Tim Sandle
The virus that causes cold sores may be associated with cognitive problems, according to a new study supported by the American Academy of Neurology.
Glass representation of the swine flu virus
Glass representation of the swine flu virus
Luke Jerram
The new research, undertaken at the Columbia University Medical Center, carried out an examination of people who had recurrent cold sores and those who had not. The research, according to The Journal, found that those who had specific pathogens, such as cold sores, at some point in their lives had higher levels of infection in their blood (as measured by antibody levels). The study also found that these people were more likely, when compared with people who did not have the same antibody levels, to have some level of memory problem.
Cold sores are caused by a virus called herpes simplex type 1 virus. There are several herpes viruses. Oral herpes is the type that gives rise to cold sores or fever blisters, as an infection of the face or mouth. Oral herpes is the most common form of infection.
According to the research brief, the researchers tested thinking and memory in 1,625 people with an average age of 69 from northern Manhattan in New York. Participants gave blood samples that were tested for five common low grade infections, including the herpes virus responsible for cold sores (the other pathogens were herpes simplex type 2 (genital), and cytomegalovirus, chlamydia pneumoniae (a common respiratory infection) and Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria found in the stomach).
The results, summarized by the New York Daily News, showed that the people who had higher levels of infection had a 25% increase in the risk of a low score on a common test of cognition called the Mini-Mental State Examination. The memory and thinking skills were tested every year for an average of eight years.
The study was fairly specific and aimed at a relatively small group in a particular locale. It may lead, however, to further research being conducted to see if the 'cold sore' virus and memory slow-down associated stands up to more rigorous analysis.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Leducq Foundation. The results have been published in the journal Neurology,.