Alzheimer’s disease is one of the few conditions we still can’t figure out how to prevent, stop, or reverse. We have some techniques for managing the disorder, but its cause still baffles scientists. However, some scientists argue that new evidence has emerged that could change the way we treat Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions — and that it’s not getting the attention it deserves.

In a groundbreaking editorial, an international group of senior scientists and clinicians has argued there are two specific types of bacteria and one virus that cause Alzheimer’s. The team said that published research on the disease suggests a link between the condition and herpes type 1 virus, chlamydia, and spirochetes.

"We are saying there is incontrovertible evidence that Alzheimer’s disease has a dormant microbial component, and that this can be woken up by iron dysregulation. Removing this iron will slow down or prevent cognitive degeneration — we can’t keep ignoring all of the evidence," said one of the editorial’s authors, Professor Douglas Kell of the University of Manchester’s School of Chemistry and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, in a statement.

The editorial is a major call to action, summarizing data that implicates the microbes — data that has long been ignored or deemed controversial. Proposals for the funding of clinical trials have been refused, despite the lack of evidence to counter the microbial component theory and some 400 unsuccessful clinical trials based on other concepts.

Researchers who suggested that viruses cause certain types of cancer faced similar opposition a few years ago by. Their idea ultimately proved true and lead to successful clinical trials and the development of treatment options.

The researchers say microbes can remain latent in the body and can be found in the blood.

"The microbial presence in blood may … play a fundamental role as a causative agent of systemic inflammation, which is a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease," said Professor Resia Pretorius of the University of Pretoria, who also worked on the editorial.

The paper highlights the fact that viruses and bacteria are common in the brains of elderly people, and that the herpes virus in particular is damaging to the central nervous system and the limbic system in the brain. This system is associated with memory, cognitive processes, and personality, all of which are affected by Alzheimer’s.

Though the editorial researchers write that there is a great need for further research, some unassociated scientists aren’t convinced the microbial theory holds any water.

"This is a minority view in Alzheimer research," Professor John Hardy, a geneticist and molecular biologist from University College London, told The Telegraph. "There has been no convincing proof of infections causing Alzheimer disease. We need always to keep an open mind but this editorial does not reflect what most researchers think about Alzheimer disease."

Source: Itzhaki R, Lathe R, Balin B, Ball M, Bearer E, Braak H, et al. Microbes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2016.