ISLAMABAD: a new study finds that certain chronic viral infections - including the herpes simplex virus - may contribute to cognitive decline in healthy older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define cognition as a "combination of mental processes that includes the ability to learn new things, intuition, judgment, language and remembering.

And when an individual has cognitive decline or dementia, their ability to effectively manage medications and existing medical conditions becomes a concern.

Needless to say, as our population begins to age, understanding cognitive decline risk factors becomes a public health concern.

Dr Nimgaonkar and colleagues say that previous cross-sectional studies (studies that look at data from a single time point) have found a link between exposure to certain viruses and decreased cognitive functioning.

These viruses include: cytomegalovirus (CMV), herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV) and the protozoa Toxoplasma gondii, which many people are familiar as the parasite found in cat feces.

"Our study is one of the few to assess viral exposure and cognitive functioning measures over a period of time in a group of older adults," Dr Nimgaonkar says.
After looking for signs of viral exposures in blood samples, the researchers found that exposure to CMV, HSV-2 or toxoplasma is linked with aspects of cognitive decline typically considered to be age-related decline.

The researchers do note that their findings are independent of general age-related variables, so the link between CMV, HSV-2 and toxoplasma exposure and cognitive deterioration is significant.

For future study, they are aiming to determine if there are subgroups of people who are more vulnerable to the effects of these chronic viral infections.

HSV spreads through direct contact, and some people have no symptoms, which means they may be at risk without knowing.

The researchers do note that their findings are independent of general age-related variables, so the link between CMV, HSV-2 and toxoplasma exposure and cognitive deterioration is significant.

For future study, they are aiming to determine if there are subgroups of people who are more vulnerable to the effects of these chronic viral infections.

HSV spreads through direct contact, and some people have no symptoms, which means they may be at risk without knowing.