Infectious agents, including viruses and bacteria, are proposed to be involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According to this hypothesis, these agents have capacity to evade the host immune system leading to chronic infection, inflammation, and subsequent deposition of Aβ and phosphorylated-tau in the brain. Co-existing proteinopathies and age-related pathologies are common in AD and the brains of elderly individuals, but whether these are also related to neuroinfections remain to be established. This study determined the prevalence and distribution of neurodegenerative proteinopathies in patients with infection-induced acute or chronic inflammation associated with herpes simplex virus (HSV) encephalitis (n=13) and neurosyphilis (n=23). The mean age at death in HSV patients was 53±12 years (range 24-65 years) and survival was 9 days-6 years following initial infection. The mean age at death and survival in neurosyphilis patients was 60±15 years (range 36-86 years) and 1-5 years, respectively. Neuronal tau-immunoreactivity and neurites were observed in 8 HSV patients and 19 neurosyphilis patients, and in approximately half of these, this was found in regions associated with inflammation and expanding beyond regions expected from the Braak stage of neurofibrillary degeneration. Five neurosyphilis patients had cortical ageing-related tau astrogliopathy. Aβ-plaques were found in 4 HSV patients and 11 neurosyphilis patients. Lewy bodies were observed in one HSV patient and two neurosyphilis patients. TDP-43 pathology was absent. These observations provide insights into deposition of neurodegenerative proteins in neuroinfections, which might have implications for COVID-19 patients with chronic and/or post-infectious neurological symptoms and encephalitis.
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Herpes simplex virus