Giovanna De Chiara , 1 , Maria Elena Marcocci 2 , Rossella Sgarbanti 3 , Livia Civitelli 2 , Cristian Ripoli 4 , Roberto Piacentini 4 , Enrico Garaci 5 , Claudio Grassi 4 , Anna Teresa Palamara , 3 , 6
17 August 2012
A growing body of epidemiologic and experimental data point to chronic bacterial and viral infections as possible risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Infections of the central nervous system, especially those characterized by a chronic progressive course, may produce multiple damage in infected and neighbouring cells. The activation of inflammatory processes and host immune responses cause chronic damage resulting in alterations of neuronal function and viability, but different pathogens can also directly trigger neurotoxic pathways. Indeed, viral and microbial agents have been reported to produce molecular hallmarks of neurodegeneration, such as the production and deposit of misfolded protein aggregates, oxidative stress, deficient autophagic processes, synaptopathies and neuronal death. These effects may act in synergy with other recognized risk factors, such as aging, concomitant metabolic diseases and the host’s specific genetic signature. This review will focus on the contribution given to neurodegeneration by herpes simplex type-1, human immunodeficiency and influenza viruses, and by Chlamydia pneumoniae.