Viruses that infect bacteria might be the previously overlooked cause of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. George Tetz of the Human Microbiology Institute and Tetz Laboratories, believes viruses called bacteriophages can cause neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, by triggering immune system responses.
“We are the first research group to demonstrate that bacteriophages can actually cause diseases in humans through the so-called autoimmune component,” Tetz told Digital Journal in October. Tetz was speaking of work he did with scientists at New York University; their results were published in Nature’s Scientific Reports in May 2017.
To help others understand his theory and its implications, Tetz answered a few questions for TDM Health. Here are the results of that interview:
TDM Health: “What is a bacteriophage?
Dr. Tetz: “Bacteriophages are viruses that infect and replicate within a bacterium. Very important feature is that bacteriophages are believed to selectively interact with bacteria and to not affect eukaryotic cells.”
TDM Health: “Where are bacteriophages or phages found?”
Dr. Tetz: “Bacteriophages are widely spread in the outer environment and in humans and we are constantly exposed to them.”
TDM Health: “What do we know about bacteriophages and how they affect the human body?”
Dr. Tetz: “Our ignorance about phages’ diversity and their role is remarkable, but what we know they are important regulators of microbiota homeostasis.”
TDM Health: “What neurodegenerative diseases might be caused by bacteriophages?”
Dr. Tetz: “Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Autistic spectrum disorders and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. All these pathologies, although different have some common triggering features. And we believe that phages are one of these previously overlooked triggers.”
TDM Health: “How might bacteriophages cause neurodegenerative diseases?”
Dr. Tetz: “There are different ways of how phages are implicated in neurodegeneration.”
Dr. Tetz: “One is that bacteriophages may lead to the increased intestinal permeability. This allows an increased absorption of bacterial antigens. Inflammatory mediators that in turn leads to endotoxemia; disregulation of inflammatory response and triggers chronic inflammation. Moreover, we have recently shown that phages may be also implicated in prion-like misfolding of proteins”
TDM Health: “How might chronic inflammation caused by bacteriophages affect the human body?”
Dr. Tetz: “Previous studies have established a clear correlation between chronic inflammation due to impaired gut permeability and a variety of pathologies including neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes etc.”
TDM Health: “Are there any ways that bacteriophages can cause Alzheimer’s disease besides inflammation?”
Dr. Tetz: “The other way is associated with the role of bacteriophages in the formation of prion proteins that have been shown to be associated with the formation of misfolded amyloid and tau-proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.”
TDM Health: “Does your research point to any methods of preventing or treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s?”
Dr. Tetz: “Yes, we are working in this direction and I will be able to tell you more once the studies are complete. Briefly – it is something that may bring the prevention and therapy of certain neurodegenerative diseases to a principally new level of efficacy.”
TDM Health: “What scientific conferences has your research been presented at?”
Dr. Tetz: “Studies were presented as oral presentations at the major microbiological conferences: ASM Microbe 2017, 7th Congress of European Microbiologists, Annual Regional Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology”.
TDM Health: “What is the next step in your research?”
Dr. Tetz: “Two other articles about evaluating bacteriophages and their implications in neurodegenerative diseases are in press. I would be delighted to share data with you once these manuscripts are published.”
TDM Health: “What are your future plans?”
Dr. Tetz: “We continue working on neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases, including animal studies as well.”
TDM Health: “Where can people learn more about your research?”
Dr. Tetz: “The research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports, with the peer-reviewed paper titled “Bacteriophages as potential new mammalian pathogens and from our latest articles “Prion-Like Domains in Phagobiota”, published in Frontiers in Microbiology.”
TDM Health: “Where else can people learn more about you and your work?”
Dr. Tetz: “On the website of the NYC-based Human Microbiology Institute”
The Human Microbiology Institute’s website can be found here: http://hmi-us.com/
More detailed information about bacteriophages can be found in this Digital Journal article: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/3522092