There is evidence of a link between herpes viruses and dementia. According to a study, a shingles vaccination should therefore protect against the nerve disease.
More and more people are suffering from dementia in old age. In Germany, an estimated 1.8 million people are currently living with the nerve disease. However, the exact cause of dementia has not yet been conclusively clarified. As a result, there are hardly any ways to protect oneself from the incurable disease. However, in a so-called preprint study – which is a scientific pre-publication that is already available to the public but has not yet been peer-reviewed – scientists have now investigated the relationship between dementia and shingles vaccination. The results show that the vaccination can apparently have a protective effect.
Shingles vaccination can drastically reduce the risk of dementia, according to a study
In Germany, an estimated 1.8 million people currently suffer from dementia – and the trend is rising. A shingles vaccination could possibly protect against this. © imageBROKER/Oleksandr Latkun/IMAGO
Since there is increasing evidence that herpes viruses can promote dementia, researchers at Stanford University and the Universities of Heidelberg, Mainz and Vienna investigated whether there is a connection between a shingles vaccination and the nerve disease. Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the chickenpox virus. Patients usually suffer from itching, reddening of the skin and blisters, although a disease usually heals on its own after a few weeks. However, since shingles can lead to chronic nerve pain, the Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination, especially for older people – which is also intended to protect against dementia.
For their study, the researchers evaluated data on vaccinations, doctor's visits and death certificates of people from Wales. There, the eligibility for a shingles vaccination was made dependent on the date of birth: only people born after September 2, 1933 were eligible for vaccination. The analysis of data from almost 290,000 people showed that a shingles vaccination reduced the likelihood of a dementia diagnosis by 19.9 percent in the following seven years. In addition, further results showed that the protective effect was significantly higher in women than in men.
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Reducing the risk of dementia: For whom a shingles vaccination makes sense
Several studies suggest that there may be a link between herpes viruses and Alzheimer's disease. If the herpes simplex virus and the varicella-zoster virus occur together, then the combination of both can trigger the formation of the protein plaques typical of Alzheimer's, according to a study. Since people aged 60 and over are particularly at risk due to a weakening immune system, the STIKO recommends a shingles vaccination for them as well as all persons aged 50 and over whose immune system is weakened by illness, after a bone marrow or organ transplant or suppressed by therapy. In addition, people aged 50 and over with a severe underlying condition, for example of the lungs, kidneys or intestines, should be vaccinated.
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