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Cytomegalovirus Antibodies Linked to Cognitive Decline

In elderly, episodic memory, cognitive functions erode with higher antibody levels

THURSDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive function in the elderly fails faster in those with higher cytomegalovirus antibody levels than in those with lower antibody levels, researchers report in the July issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Allison E. Aiello, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues screened 1,204 participants aged 60 to 100, from the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging. The subjects were screened annually for four years for episodic memory, cognitive abilities, C-reactive protein levels and antibodies to cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex virus type-1.

The researchers found that cognitive function worsened more in participants with higher initial cytomegalovirus antibody levels than in those starting with the lowest antibody levels. But no link was found between herpes simplex virus type-1 antibodies and declining mental function.

Further, C-reactive protein did not affect the interaction between declining mental function and viral antibody levels, the researchers found.

"This is the first study to show that individuals with higher levels of antibody to cytomegalovirus experience a more-rapid rate of cognitive decline than those with lower levels," the authors write. "Understanding the mechanisms by which cytomegalovirus influences cognition may aid development of intervention strategies targeting infection, viral reactivation, and immune response over the life course."

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