Increase in the IgG avidity index due to herpes simplex virus type 1 reactivation and its relationship with cognitive function in amnestic mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.

 After infection with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), latent infection persists for life in the trigeminal ganglion and reactivation results in an outbreak of cold sores around the mouth. Many previous studies have reported HSV-1 reactivation to be a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). This study enrolled subjects with AD (n=85), subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI; a prodromal stage of AD) (n=34), and healthy controls (n=28). The avidity index of anti-HSV-1 IgG antibodies--a known indicator of HSV-1 reactivation--was measured in order to clarify the relationship between HSV-1 reactivation and symptoms of cognitive function in AD. Cognitive function in AD and aMCI were evaluated using scores from the mini-mental state examination (MMSE) and frontal assessment battery (FAB). The results showed that the subjects with aMCI, for which cerebral function is better preserved than subjects with AD, had a higher anti-HSV-1 IgG antibody avidity index than the AD subjects or healthy controls. Furthermore, the anti-HSV-1 IgG antibody avidity index was even higher in the subjects with high MMSE scores on orientation to time and three-step command subscores. We observed a negative correlation between the anti-HSV-1 IgG antibody avidity index and plasma BDNF concentration, which is an indicator of encephalitis. This suggests that HSV-1 reactivation, as observed through an increase in the anti-HSV-1 IgG avidity index, does not progress to encephalitis. These results suggest that HSV-1 reactivation occurs from the stage of aMCI, which is prodromal to AD, and can affect AD symptoms without an intermediary stage of severe encephalitis. The study demonstrates that the anti-HSV-1 IgG antibody avidity index could be a useful biomarker for the early diagnosis of aMCI as well as AD, and suggests that antiviral medication to treat HSV-1 could play a role in preventing the onset of AD.

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