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Common Infections Linked to Memory Decline

Update Date: Feb 13, 2014 06:26 PM EST

Common infections can increase the risk of memory decline, according to a new study.

Researchers have linked an index of antibody levels caused by exposure to Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 to worse cognitive performance, including memory, speed of mental processing, abstract thinking, planning and reasoning ability.

"We were very interested in what were the risk factors for cognitive performance and decline," lead researcher Dr. Clinton Wright, scientific director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami, said in a news release.

The latest study involved 588 people who gave blood samples and took brain function tests. Five years later half the participants took cognitive tests.

The study also found that exposure to these infections may increase the risk of stroke, atherosclerosis and inflammation.

However, researchers said the study doesn't explain the link between infections and worsening of cognitive function.

"It could be caused by an immune system response to the infections or the infection itself could result in clinical damage that we're not aware of," Wright said.

Researchers said that the findings don't mean that people should start taking action to fight these infections.

"There is no evidence yet that treating these infections is beneficial," he said.

"It would be great if treatment prevented these bad outcomes, but we're very far away from having that type of evidence," added Wright.

The findings are presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2014

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