Study Title
Hygiene and the world distribution of Alzheimer’s Disease
Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health

Molly Fox, Leslie A. Knapp, Paul W. Andrews, Corey L. Fincher


Background and Objectives:
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) shares certain etiological features with autoimmunity. Prevalence of autoimmunity varies between populations in accordance with variation in environmental microbial diversity. Exposure to microorganisms may improve individuals’ immunoregulation in ways that protect against autoimmunity, and we suggest this may also be the case for AD. Here we investigate whether differences in microbial diversity can explain patterns of age-adjusted AD rates between countries.
We use regression models to test whether pathogen prevalence, as a proxy for microbial diversity, across 192 countries can explain a significant amount of the variation in age-standardized AD disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) rates. We also review and assess the relationship between pathogen prevalence and AD rates in different world populations.
Based on our analyses, it appears that hygiene is positively associated with AD risk. Countries with greater degree of sanitation and lower degree of pathogen prevalence have higher age-adjusted AD DALY rates. Countries with greater degree of urbanization and wealth exhibit higher age-adjusted AD DALY rates.
Conclusions and implications:
Variation in hygiene may partly explain global patterns in AD rates. Microorganism exposure may be inversely related to AD risk. These results may help predict AD burden in developing countries where microbial diversity is rapidly diminishing. Epidemiological forecasting is important for preparing for future healthcare needs and research prioritization.

August 11, 2013
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