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Holding your nose has always been nasty—now a study says it can lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Holding your nose has always been nasty—now a study says it can lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Picking your nose can be more than just a social faux pas.

A study from Australia suggests there may be a link between nose picking and the development of late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The study – titled “Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease” – was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

She tested the ability of bacteria to travel up the nose and into the brain in mice.

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“Chlamydia pneumoniae is a respiratory tract pathogen, but can also infect the central nervous system (CNS),” the study said – noting that there is an “increasingly apparent” link between C. pneumoniae infection in the central nervous system and the development of late-onset dementia.

Bacteria traveled between the nose and the brain in mice, the study found.

Medical researchers advise people to refrain from picking their nose or pulling nose hair, as this can damage the inside of the nose - increasing the risk of infection.

Medical researchers advise people to refrain from picking their nose or pulling nose hair, as this can damage the inside of the nose – increasing the risk of infection.
(iStock)

“We are the first to show that Chlamydia pneumoniae can go directly into the nose and into the brain, where it can trigger pathologies that they look like Alzheimer’s diseasesaid dr. James St John, one of the co-authors of the study, in a press release issued on October 28, 2022.

“We’ve seen this happen in a mouse model, and the evidence is potentially frightening for humans as well.”

When a mouse’s nose was injured and infected with C. pneumoniae, there was “increased infection of the peripheral nerves and olfactory bulb.”

St John is head of the Clem Jones Center for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research at Griffith University South East Queensland, Australia.

“In mice, CNS infection has been shown to occur weeks to months after intranasal inoculation,” the researchers noted.

In this study, however, the scientists showed that the nose and facial nerves of mice, along with the olfactory bulb and brain, were infected within three days of exposure to the bacteria.

The next steps will be to replicate the study in human patients -- to determine whether human noses are similar pathways for bacterial infection, the study authors said.

The next steps will be to replicate the study in human patients — to determine whether human noses are similar pathways for bacterial infection, the study authors said.
(iStock)

“C. pneumoniae infection also resulted in dysregulation of key pathways involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease at 7 and 28 days post-inoculation,” the study said.

When a mouse’s nose was injured and infected with C. pneumoniae, there was “increased infection of the peripheral nerves and olfactory bulb.”

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The next steps will be yes repeat the study with human patients to determine whether human noses are similar pathways for bacterial infection, St John said.

“We need to do this study in humans and confirm whether the same pathway works in the same way,” he said in a press release.

Laboratory mice in an Australian study were exposed to the bacteria and later developed Alzheimer's-like symptoms.

Laboratory mice in an Australian study were exposed to the bacteria and later developed Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.
(iStock)

“It’s research that’s been proposed by many people, but it’s not done yet.”

“What we do know is that these same bacteria are present in humans, but we haven’t worked out how they get there,” St John added.

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Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States for adults over age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the seventh leading cause of death for adults.

About 6.5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the CDC, making it the most common form of dementia in the elderly.

"If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase the number of bacteria that can enter your brain," said dr.  James St John from Griffith University in South East Queensland, Australia.

“If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase the number of bacteria that can enter your brain,” said Dr. James St John from Griffith University in South East Queensland, Australia.
(iStock)

Alzheimer’s disease has no known cause, the CDC said.

In the meantime, St. John advises people to refrain from picking their nose or pulling nose hair, as this could damage the inside of the nose, increasing the risk of any type of infection.

“We don’t want to damage the inside of the nose, and picking and plucking can do that,” he said in a news release.

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“If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase the number of bacteria that can enter your brain.”



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