Picking your nose has always been gross — now a study says it can lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Picking your nose has always been gross — now a study says it can lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Picking your nose has always been gross — now a study says it can lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Picking your nose can be more than a social faux pas.

A study conducted in Australia suggests that there may be a link between nose picking and the development of late onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, titled “Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

He tested the ability of bacteria to travel up the nose and into the brain in mice.

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“Chlamydia pneumoniae is airway pathogen, but can also infect the central nervous system (CNS),” the study said — noting that there is an “increasingly apparent” link between C. pneumoniae infection in the central nervous system and the development of late-onset dementia.

The bacteria traveled between the nose and the brain of the mice, the study found.

Picking your nose has always been gross — now a study says it can lead to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease

Medical researchers are advising people to refrain from picking their noses or plucking nose hairs as this could damage the inside of the nose – increasing the risk of infection.
(iStock)

“We were the first to show that Chlamydia pneumoniae can go directly into the nose and into the brain, where it can cause pathologies that looks like Alzheimer’s disease” said Dr. James St John, one of the study’s co-authors, in a press release issued on October 28, 2022.

“We’ve seen this happen in a mouse model, and the evidence is potentially frightening for humans as well.”

When a mouse’s nose was injured and infected with C. pneumoniae, there was “increased infection of the peripheral nerve and olfactory bulbs.”

St John is head of the Clem Jones Center for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research at Griffith University South East Queensland, Australia.

“In mice, CNS infection has been shown to occur weeks to months after intranasal inoculation,” the researchers noted.

However, in this study, the scientists showed that the mice’s nose and facial nerves, along with the olfactory bulb and brain, were infected within three days of being exposed to the bacteria.

The next steps will be to replicate the study with human patients -- to determine whether human noses are similar pathways for bacterial infection, the study authors said.

The next steps will be to replicate the study with human patients — to determine whether human noses are similar pathways for bacterial infection, the study authors said.
(iStock)

“C. pneumoniae infection also resulted in dysregulation of key pathways involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease at 7 and 28 days post-inoculation,” the study said.

When a mouse’s nose was injured and infected with C. pneumoniae, there was “increased infection of the peripheral nerve and olfactory bulbs.”

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The next steps will be repeat the study with human patients to determine whether human noses are similar pathways for bacterial infection, St John said.

“We need to do this study in humans and confirm whether the same pathway works in the same way,” he said in a press release.

Laboratory mice in an Australian study were exposed to the bacteria and subsequently developed symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease.

Laboratory mice in an Australian study were exposed to the bacteria and subsequently developed symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
(iStock)

“It’s research that has been proposed by many people, but it hasn’t been completed yet.”

“What we do know is that these same bacteria are present in humans, but we haven’t figured out how they get there,” St John added.

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Alzheimer’s disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States for adults over age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the seventh leading cause of death for adults overall.

About 6.5 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease, the CDC said, making it the most common form of dementia in the elderly.

"If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase the number of bacteria that can enter your brain," said Dr. James St John of Griffith University in southeast Queensland, Australia.

“If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase how much bacteria can get into your brain,” said Dr James St John of Griffith University in south-east Queensland, Australia.
(iStock)

Alzheimer’s disease has no known cause, the CDC said.

In the meantime, St John advises people to refrain from picking their noses or pulling nose hairs as this could damage the inside of the nose, increasing the risk of any infection.

“We don’t want to damage the inside of the nose, and picking and plucking can do that,” he said in a press release.

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“If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase the number of bacteria that can get into your brain.”

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