Herpesvirus infections, antiviral treatment, and the risk of dementia-a registry-based cohort study in Sweden

Alzheimers Dement (N Y). 2021 Feb 14;7(1):e12119. doi: 10.1002/trc2.12119. eCollection 2021.


Introduction: Herpesviruses, including Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) and varicella zoster-virus (VZV), have been implicated in Alzheimer's disease (AD) development. Likewise, antiviral treatment has been suggested to protect against dementia development in herpes-infected individuals.

Methods: The study enrolled 265,172 subjects aged ≥ 50 years, with diagnoses of VZV or HSV, or prescribed antiviral drugs between 31 December 2005 and 31 December 2017. Controls were matched in a 1:1 ratio by sex and birth year.

Results: Antiviral treatment was associated with decreased risk of dementia (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0.89, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.86 to 0.92), while herpes infection without antiviral drugs increased the risk of dementia (adjusted HR 1.50, 95% CI 1.29 to 1.74).

Discussion: Antiviral treatment was associated with a reduced long-term risk of dementia among individuals with overt signs of herpes infection. This is consistent with earlier findings indicating that herpesviruses are involved in the pathogenesis of AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; antiviral agents; dementia; herpes simplex; herpes zoster; retrospective cohort study; varicella zoster.