Fusobacterium nucleatum (F. nucleatum) is a common bacteria associated with oral conditions like gum disease, bad breath, tooth abscess, and mouth cancer. In addition, it has been linked to a variety of diseases elsewhere in the body, including cancers, infections, and inflammatory conditions.
Most recently, a study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience has found that it may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Lead author Jake Jinkun Chen, Professor of Periodontology and Director of the Division of Oral Biology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, said his team’s work showed that F. nucleatum might worsen Alzheimer’s disease, either by creating inflammation or by taking up residence in the brain and secreting pathological molecules. “Our studies show that F. nucleatum can reduce the memory and thinking skills in mice through certain signal pathways,” said Chen. “This is a warning sign to researchers and clinicians alike.”
Chen further explained that F. nucleatum causes abnormal growth of microglial cells. Microglial cells are immune cells in the brain that normally remove damaged nerve cells and infections. This excessive growth of microglial cells creates an increased inflammatory response. “Chronic inflammation or infection is believed to be a key determinant in the cognitive decline that occurs as Alzheimer’s disease progresses,” said Chen.
Chen noted that while his research does not prove that periodontal disease can cause Alzheimer’s disease, it does suggest that if you don’t adequately treat gum disease, you might make Alzheimer’s disease symptoms worse.
Good oral hygiene includes:
- Properly brushing your teeth (and tongue!) and using dental floss twice a day, after meals
- Avoiding tobacco and vaping
- Visiting the dentist at least once a year