The idea that infectious diseases had been or soon would be conquered and that chronic and degenerative diseases, often if not mostly the result of man’s vices and industry’s alleged toxins, would be the primary cause of human mortality has got to rank among the worst ideas of the last 50 years. Coupled with null-hypothesis statistical significance testing (and its propensity for generating false positives in risk factor epidemiology studies) it was the bad idea that launched crusade after crusade against everything from eggs to fat to salt to electricity to vaccines to cell phones. Meanwhile, today’s news that herpes zoster, the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles, was found in 74% those who died of giant cell arteritis but only 8% of those who died of other conditions, strongly suggests that our ancient predators were anything but conquered.

Herpes zoster is increasingly being implicated in cerebrovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease in turn in dementia. And there’s direct evidence that herpes zoster encephalitis produces dementia. Could it be that a common virus, another member of the herpesvirus family, is responsible for that terrible scourage of an aging population – Alzheimer’s? (See: Intracerebral propagation of Alzheimer’s diesase: strengthening evidence of a herpes simplex virus etiology ). It’s too early to tell of course but at least they’re looking and so far there are a number of indications that an infectious process lies at the heart of this degenerative process (see Moving Away from Amyloid Beta to Move on in Alzheimer’s Research just published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience). It’s just too bad it took so long to look. hat tip – LKD