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Could Picking Nose Increase Risk of Dementia ?

New research suggests that picking your nose could up your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.

The New York Post’s recent article entitled “How picking your nose could increase risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia” reports that bacteria can travel through the nasal cavity’s olfactory nerve — streamlined through a pick — reach the brain and create markers that are “a tell-tale sign of Alzheimer’s disease.”

According to scientists from Australia’s Griffith University, the bacteria Chlamydia pneumoniae — a germ linked to respiratory infections including pneumonia — uses the olfactory nerve as “an invasion path to assault the central nervous system.”

The study, published in Scientific Reports, observed cells in the brain then responded to the attack by depositing amyloid beta protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“We’re the first to show that Chlamydia pneumoniae can go directly up the nose and into the brain where it can set off pathologies that look like Alzheimer’s disease,” Professor James St. John, the study’s co-author and head of the Clem Jones Center for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research, said in a press release.

While the study was conducted on mice, St. John said “the evidence is potentially scary for humans as well.”

The olfactory nerve serves as an “express route” for bacteria to reach the brain as it bypasses the blood-brain barrier, they explained. The next phase of their research is aimed at proving the same pathway exists in humans.

“We need to do this study in humans and confirm whether the same pathway operates in the same way. It’s research that has been proposed by many people, but not yet completed,” St. John said. “What we do know is that these same bacteria are present in humans, but we haven’t worked out how they get there.”

The researchers said that a loss of smell can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or dementia. It suggests smell tests for those 60 and up as an early detector.

“Once you get over 65 years old, your risk factor goes right up, but we’re looking at other causes as well, because it’s not just age — it is environmental exposure as well. And we think that bacteria and viruses are critical.”

The professor also said, “Picking your nose and plucking the hairs from your nose are not a good idea … We don’t want to damage the inside of our nose and picking, and plucking can do that. If you damage the lining of the nose, you can increase how many bacteria can go up into your brain.”

Reference: New York Post (Oct. 31, 2022) “How picking your nose could increase risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia”