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ARUK 2021 | Viral infections and dementia

Clayton Wiley, MD, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, discusses the relationship between viral infections and dementia. Prof. Wiley provides historical context of how infectious diseases are associated with dementia. In the 1900s, syphilis was the most common cause of dementia, but with the advent of potent antibiotics in the 20th century, its prevalence declined. Those same antibiotics increased the average lifespan, leading to the emergence of age-related dementias. Several investigations looking for infectious agents in the brains of individuals with dementia were carried out. However, there is no evidence that any virus is directly present in the brains of individuals with dementing illnesses. Prof. Wiley also debates if viruses could be responsible for exacerbating age-related effects in the brain. Although there are exceptions, a direct role of viruses in mediating neurodegeneration can be excluded, but there may be many indirect roles. This interview took place during the Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) Conference 2021.