In a shocking turn of events, a new study discovered a link between nose picking and neurological problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Researchers from Griffith University demonstrated how a bacteria called Chlamydia pneumoniae could lead to serious brain problems.

In a press release published by the university on Friday, the researchers indicated that the bacteria could travel directly from the olfactory nerve in the nose and into the brain. This could lead to amyloid beta protein deposits in the brain that induce Alzheimer’s pathologies.

Since the nerve extends from the nasal cavity to the brain, the bacteria can invade the central nervous system through this path. The resulting protein deposit is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’re the first to show that Chlamydia pneumoniae can go directly up the nose into the brain where it can set off pathologies that look like Alzheimer’s disease,” Professor James St. John said in the press release.

He continued, “We saw this happen in a mouse model, and the evidence is potentially scary for humans as well.”

As a respiratory tract pathogen, the team said its link to late-onset dementia has become increasingly evident thanks to their study, first published in the journal Scientific Reports in February this year.

The goal of the researchers in the study was to investigate whether the bacteria could rapidly invade the central nervous system within 3 to 7 days via the olfactory nerve in mice and lead to amyloid beta protein deposits in the brain.

“Chlamydia pneumoniae infects the olfactory mucosa, olfactory bulb and cerebral cortex within 3 days after intranasal inoculation,” they wrote in the results.

To confirm their findings, the team has been planning the next phase of research that could prove the same pathway exists in humans and could lead to the same results.

“We need to do this study in humans and confirm whether the same pathway operates in the same way. It’s research that has been proposed by many people, but not yet completed. What we do know is that these same bacteria are present in humans, but we haven’t worked out how they get there,” St. John added.

Smell tests have been used as a potential tool to detect Alzheimer’s or dementia risk in humans because the loss of smell is said to be an indicator of these neurological problems.

For now, St. John and his team strongly discourage picking the nose and plucking the hairs inside it. Any damage to the inside of the nose could increase the chances of the bacteria going up into the brain.