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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 3rd June 2016 > BUGS IN YOUR BRAIN


Could mental illness and cognitive decline be caused by viral and bacterial infection?


AS RECENTLY AS the 1970s, doctors stubbornly treated complaints of festering open sores in the stomach as a failing of diet or an inability to manage stress. Though we had long accepted the basic premise of Louis Pasteur’s germ theory—that flittering short bursts of disease and death are often caused by microscopic beings that could be stopped by sanitary food, water and specially crafted drugs—many researchers ardently resisted the idea that they could also trigger more complicated, chronic illnesses.

SLOW KILLERS: Ruth Itzhaki is calling for more research on the role of microbes in Alzheimer’s disease.

When it came to ulcers, no one believed that any microorganisms could endure in the acidic cauldron of our digestive system. It took the gumshoe work of Australian doctors and medical researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren in the 1980s to debunk that belief and discover the specific bug responsible for most chronic stomach ulcers, Helicobacter pylori. Marshall even went so far as to swallow the germ to prove the link was real and, obviously, became sick soon after. Thankfully, his self-sacrifice was eventually validated when he and Warren were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2005.

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