IDSA Foundation Offers Grants to Researchers Pursuing Alzheimer's Potential Infectious Link


With multiple failed trials in the desperate search for a treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are focusing on different approaches to develop therapies. Now researchers are seeking to determine if there could be an infectious link to the development of the dreaded form of dementia.

On Monday, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Foundation announced five one-time grants of $100,000 to researchers seeking to identify a potential infectious link to the disease. In its announcement, the foundation said there is “growing evidence” of what it calls an “Alzheimer’s germ.” But what that is could be bacterium, virus, fungi, parasite or prion, the foundation noted. Research is needed to move the needle forward and that is why the grants were announced.

This is the second year the foundation has offered such Alzheimer’s research grants however, this year, the grants are supported by Alzheimer's Germ Quest, Inc. and The Benter Foundation. Thomas Fekete, chairman of the IDSA Foundation, said the support of the two organizations allowed the research grants to be expanded to five this year. The grants are designed to obtain evidence that an infectious agent or microbial community is correlated to Alzheimer's disease, as well as promote research in the field of microbial triggers for Alzheimer's disease.

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Leslie Norins, founder and president of Alzheimer’s Germ Quest, said he has reviewed the scientific literature and believes it is clear that a germ, possibly not one yet discovered, is the root cause of most Alzheimer’s disease. Norins said if that germ can be discovered, it will open up pathways to effective diagnosis, treatments and prevention. Norins believes the germ has gone undiscovered because few researchers are looking at the infection angle, older methods of germ detection have been used and there is too little collaboration between Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases researchers.

“A number of tantalizing findings suggest an infectious agent may play a role in Alzheimer's disease, and we are committed to determining if the link is real,” Fekete said.

Earlier this year, Scientists with Cortexyme published research that showed the gingivitis-causing bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis is linked to Alzheimer’s. Stephen Dominy, Cortexyme’s co-founder and chief scientific officer said at the time the research was published that there was evidence “connecting the intracellular, Gram-negative pathogen, Pg and Alzheimer’s pathogenesis.”

In order to receive a grant, research must be focused on identifying the possible role of an infectious agent that causes Alzheimer's disease. Awards will support innovative research, including basic, clinical and/or non-traditional approaches. The application period for the grant will remain open through November 30.

The idea of a germ that may be at the root of Alzheimer’s is one of the latest areas to be explored following the failed research into amyloid plaque and tau tangles. Inflammation is also being explored as a potential cause of the disease. The idea is that amyloid and tangles trigger the disease but the resulting inflammation is what leads to dementia. After the amyloid and tangles begin to kill neurons, the brain’s innate immune system reacts with significant levels of neuroinflammation, which causes more cell death and could lead to dementia. Earlier this year, scientists also explored the protein Klotho, which could impact memory. In mice models, the hormone appeared to protect mice from the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

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