The potential link between nose picking or nose hair removal and dementia will be part of a new study.
Researchers at Griffith University have shown that the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae, linked to late-onset dementia, can enter the central nervous system of mice via the olfactory nerves of the nose.
Professor James St John explains that mouse brain cells react to bacteria by depositing beta-amyloid protein, which aggregates in plaques destroying neurons and cells in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
“We are the first to show that Chlamydia pneumoniae can ascend directly into the nose and brain where it can trigger conditions reminiscent of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said in a statement Friday.
“We have seen this happen in a mouse model and the evidence is potentially frightening for humans as well.”
The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that viruses and bacteria can bypass the blood barrier by taking a shortcut directly to the brain via the olfactory nerve.
Professor St John says the team is planning another study to show that the same nasal passage exists in humans, who also have Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria in their brains.
“What we do know is that these same bacteria are present in humans, but we don’t understand how they get there,” he said.
Loss of smell is an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, he said, so smell tests could potentially help provide an early diagnosis.
Professor St John also warned that there is a potential risk that plucking your nose or plucking nose hairs could increase your risk of developing dementia.
“We don’t want to damage the inside of our nose and picking and picking can do it. If you damage the lining of your nose, you can increase the number of bacteria that can enter your brain. “