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by Mike Zazaian October 23, 2006 - 7:42pm, 1 Comment

 Colds, Flus Could Cause Brain Damage, Study Says

A study conducted on mice suggests that colds, flus and other viral infections could lead to acute memory loss.

Scientists at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota conducted the test by injecting mice with Theiler’s murine encephalomyelitis virus, a strain related to the polio virus in humans. The mice tested in the experiment became ill as a result, but didn’t show signs of paralysis. After recovering from the illness, the scientists found that mice affected by the virus took a longer time to navigate a maze that they had learned prior to infection. By comparison, unaffected mice showed no decrease in the ability to navigate the same maze. Said Charles Howe, a member of the team that conducted the study:

Our mouse study is the first to show that acute viral infection can cause memory deficit. We think picornavirus family members cross into the brain and cause a variety of brain injuries.

The mice who infected with the virus also showed severe damage to the memory-processing hippocampus region of the brain.

As the virus used in the mice is a picornavirus, the same variety of viral infection as the common cold or flu, scientists believe that such infections could have similar effects on humans. If the researchers have found it in mice, there is a chance it would affect humans the same way, commented George Kemenes of the University of Sussex, England.

Following the research the Howe’s team has developed a compound that lessens hippocampus damage in infected mice. The scientists of the Mayo Clinic College will next conduct an study on humans with a history of such acute infections. The research will test Howe’s theory that damage from such infections may accumulate over the life of an individual, ultimately contributing to lower memory and brain functioning later in life

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