Nose Picking Could Increase Risk for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Summary: The Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria can travel directly from olfactory nerve in the nose and into the brain, forcing brain cells to deposit amyloid beta and inducing Alzheimer’s pathologies. Researchers say protecting the lining of the nose by not picking or plucking nasal hairs can help lower Alzheimer’s risks.

Source: Griffith University

Griffith University researchers have demonstrated that a bacteria can travel through the olfactory nerve in the nose and into the brain in mice, where it creates markers that are a tell-tale sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that Chlamydia pneumoniae used the nerve extending between the nasal cavity and the brain as an invasion path to invade the central nervous system. The cells in the brain then responded by depositing amyloid beta protein which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor James St John, Head of the Clem Jones Center for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research, is a co-author of the world first research.

“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 St John said. “We saw this happen in a mouse model, and the evidence is potentially scary for humans as well.”

The olfactory nerve in the nose is directly exposed to air and offers a short pathway to the brain, one which bypasses the blood-brain barrier. It’s a route that viruses and bacteria have sniffed out as an easy one into the brain.

The team at the Center is already planning the next phase of research and aim to prove the same pathway exists in humans.

This shows a man's nose
“Picking your nose and plucking the hairs from your nose are not a good idea,” he said. Image is in the public domain

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

There are some simple steps to look after the lining of your nose that Professor St John suggests people can take now if they want to lower their risk of potentially developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

“Picking your nose and plucking the hairs from your nose are not a good idea,” he said.

“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.”

Smell tests may also have potential as detectors for Alzheimer’s and dementia says Professor St John, as loss of sense of smell is an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. He suggests smell tests from when a person turns 60 years old could be beneficial 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.”

About this Alzheimer’s disease research news

Author: Press Office
Source: Griffith University
Contact: Press Office – Griffith University
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease risk” by James St John et al. Scientific Reports


Abstract

Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease risk

Chlamydia pneumoniae is a respiratory tract pathogen but can also infect the central nervous system (CNS). Recently, the link between C. pneumoniae CNS infection and late-onset dementia has become increasingly evident.

In mice, CNS infection has been shown to occur weeks to months after intranasal inoculation. By isolating live C. pneumoniae from tissues and using immunohistochemistry, we show that C. pneumoniae can infect the olfactory and trigeminal nerves, olfactory bulb and brain within 72 h in mice. C. pneumoniae infection also resulted in dysregulation of key pathways involved in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis at 7 and 28 days after inoculation. Interestingly, amyloid beta accumulations were also detected adjacent to the C. pneumoniae inclusions in the olfactory system.

Furthermore, injury to the nasal epithelium resulted in increased peripheral nerve and olfactory bulb infection, but did not alter general CNS infection. In vitro, C. pneumoniae was able to infect peripheral nerve and CNS glia.

In summary, the nerves extending between the nasal cavity and the brain constitute invasion paths by which C. pneumoniae can rapidly invade the CNS likely by surviving in glia and leading to Aβ deposition.

Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive our recent neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email once a day, totally free.
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. You can cancel your subscription any time.
  1. Let’s have more substantive proof of such a link. Nose picking to exercise or lack thereof to diet to alcohol and beyond, to possibly aluminium cookware and what about nonstick cookware? There are it appears plenty of potential causes including personal care fragrances which could explain why more women than men succumb to these disorders and the researchers targeted nose picking.

  2. We are all so screwed. There’s no saving our species if this research is accurate. We are a species of nose pickers, and pluckers. Who would have thought out of all the things that could make us go extinct, it would be nose picking?

  3. This is an old theory.

    Chlamydia pneumoniae in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease

    Brian J. Balin PhD, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic MedicineFollow
    Christine J. Hammond, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic MedicineFollow
    C. Scott Little PhD, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic MedicineFollow
    Amanda McIntyre
    Denah M. Appelt, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic MedicineFollow
    Document Type
    Chapter

    Publication Date
    2003

  4. I would not associate Biden with nose picking so then you would have to say Trump also. Lol ! I am not totally convinced of this report because then we are all going to get Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

  5. If true – ALL KIDS are screwed!
    As that is when one sees the most booger digging ever!

    Yes, some teens and adults do it too – however clearly not as much. Unless it is discretely or privately done.

    Then, one wonders why are we being compared to mice …screech! On no – we can’t be even a close companion…here mousey mosey come sit with me and watch TV.

    Ok ok – show down to proof?

  6. So in hindsight This article was fabricated ..Well this is why scholars go to peer reviewed articles instead of bogus google threads ..So tragic to have read it and thought there was some authenticity to it …Quite disappointed to say the least …

  7. This is the stupidest crap. This reminds me of when they said walking barefoot causes cancer. This is why no one believes these studies any more.

  8. Who did this study? For gods sake, there’s so many other things to study. How about malaria? River sickness? Mosquito borne diseases?

  9. I am laughing so hard I am crying from these nose picking comments . Thank you Jason . I keep thinking of the commercials for nose hair trimmers and how to parody this on Saturday Night Live . Perhaps a before and after of a mouse picking it’s long hair out of its nose .

  10. When I am 65 and eating out randos who might have Chlamydia, I will be careful to keep on my Apple Watch 17 so I don’t pick my 👃 in my sleep…I guess? By then I’ll vote XNU and that will just be a thing that party 🎉 is known for.

  11. You know what they say, you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.

  12. Are Sjogrens patients overrepresented in AD.
    Aside from barrier function issues we need a way to kill such pathogens inside CNS

  13. Think about this. “Mice were then sacrificed 1, 3, 7 and 28 days post intranasal inoculation”
    Imagine how many animals die in the persuit of a dodgy hypothesis by humans in the persuit of a Phd.

    1. This is by far the worst study (I can’t call it scientific – just numbers game) I found. A good scientific study has to show scientific reason to corroborate the survey results. There are a huge number of variables involved and it is unclear how the authors accounted for this variable. I can do a population study today and get the result I want.

    2. Mice only live 12 to 18 months on average (these kinds anyway) and yes they are killed. But they are also BORN and bred just for research. It’s not like we are scooping up mice from natural populations.

      1. If you have the stomach for mutilation and torture of other life forms in the name of man’s silly curiosity then by all means continue with animal executions.

    3. Bro theyre just mice. Think about how many get killed by traps ever second. And you’re complaining about 4 dying in the pursuit of science? Stay on your kayak pal.

  14. Never thought nose picking can be so deadly. Here you thought covid and guns were so deadly. Well this is the new monster that we are facing today. Nose picking goblins! We should send our military to fight these nose pickers and flick their boogers right back at them for justice! For freedom! They are mucusizing our nations and giving our people post traumatic nasal drip syndrome. We must stop these nose picker terrorists now! We need to enforce the Emergencies Act before it’s too late!

    Don’t even reach for that booger clinging on that nose hair Trudeau!!! You nose what will happen to you. Look at what the nose picking did to Joe Biden. He’s forgotten a lot of things, short term memory. He’s a goner, can’t even get off stage. It’s so confusing for him.

    As a preventive measure, let’s introduce a nose mask for only the nose, and put another mask over the nose for extra caution. In the mean time the develop a nasal vaccine to shove it up in both nostrils to a minimum of 4-5 inches deep. Until the patient gives a signal of a yelp or an ow to indicate that the nurse or doctor can then spray in each nasal passage for the most effective result.

    Virologists can then do more “research” and create a new deadly nose picking variant.

    Oopsie we “accidently” created a new nose picking pandemic for everyone. Come get your new nose vaccine booster everyone! Please everybody no need panic this one isn’t as deadly as the first one. But we still want you to get it because we love you for your money… I mean we love you because we want you protected and everyone else protected around you too. So get your nose picking shot. Please, we’ll even pay you a 100 dollar gift card as an incentive for being cooperative. Only for a limited time.

    1. Whatever… I live in a fairly dry climate and I get buggers that you couldn’t extract with a pickaxe sometimes… The ONLY thing that breaks them up is eating something spicy… That gets the snot moving some then I can blow all that crap out. The forest fire smoke season being the worst, so glad it is over.

    2. You’re horrible, but I guess have well ventilated parties so the respiratory Chlamydia doesn’t wreck the quality of your 40+ years. The first thing in the paper, they cite that 90% of Alz. dead brains examined had that pneumonia’s DNA rummaging in them. The picking story’s just juice and knobs.

    3. Nice reply!
      It opens another question, what it may be the reason for the covid nose swabs?

      If the nose is a critical point to connect with our brain that may explain why the general forced use on people with the swabs to test “Covid” lie.
      It seems our noose is a highway to our brains!
      Maybe they are planning this story to blame what may come next, not everyone manage to evade the swabs sadly

    1. You’d expect a correlation with nasal zinc prophylaxis for colds also, whose dealers like answering questions a little bit more than cocaine dealers. On the other hand if you do the Zn nasal spray maybe cocaine after would be less risky w.r.t. C. pneumonia…

  15. I’m so glad this institute wasn’t involved in any diagnosis or rehab for by tbi… I would have ended up a vegetable, at best, for an absolute certainty… 💯

  16. Is this for real?
    Picking one’s nose can actually lead to
    Memory loss?? Well
    I’m 60 yo and have picked and poked at my shnoze all my life, so I guess
    “I’m Screwed”! I just wonder when it will start, does your study say anything about that???

    1. The thing’s free to read. Mental acuity or blood tests for amyloid plaques, ask your g.p. sometime after you’re 32 and especially after bouts with pneumonia.

  17. I would really be interested in the research done by Professor James St John, Head of the Clem Jones Center for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research, is a co-author of the world first research. I saw no citation for his research anywhere in this article. I read the scientific report by Sheng Liu and saw nothing that related to this article except the mention of amyloid being detected in parts of the brain as a possible indicator of Alzheimers. Most of the report talked about using deep learning to help detect two different types of dementia using MRI images more effectively. That’s what I got out of it anyway.

    1. I was also curious about authenticity here. Particular that St John was referred to as Professor and not Doctor. Turns out that he does have a PhD, in Agricultural Science. Not sure how you can consider yourself a neurobiologist without a relevant degree.

  18. If nose picking could be problematic, then the daily RAT tests many of us have been required to complete could presumably also be increasing our risk

  19. In humans, the olfactory nerves snake through the cribiform plate of the ethmoid bone that lies on the roof of the nasal cavity and back several inches from the nostril openings. It is difficult to see how plucking nostril hairs would expose the nerves to bacteria. Moreover, unless you stick the full length of your index finger up into your nose, it is hard to see how nose picking would do that.

    1. Scott, plucking hairs or damaging your nasal passages increases risk for bacterial activity because it gives the bacteria (which are there all the time and also introduced by your finger from your entire environment) a route into your bloodstream. Plucking hairs anywhere on your body increases risk for infection and causes inflammatory reactions. Get it? Plucked hairs are far more likely to get infection in the hair follicle than hairs that are left the heck alone.

      1. Yeah, I get it. But the theory describes unique entry through the olfactory nerves which are in the cribiform plate. It is not due to blood borne infection.

  20. A BBC article yesterday said Ren primate species were known to be nose pickers and there was a definite health benefits to it. Your article says it causes memory loss. The obvious thing it does is act as a babe repellant. That’s not always a bad thing. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “To pick, or not to pick, that is the question!”

    1. What a sensationalist stretch. First, the research used a mouse model involving a beta-amyloid reaction to the bacterium. No cognitive effects were proposed or measured. Second, beta-amyloid probably has an antibacterial function, so it was doing what it was supposed to do. Third, Alzheimer’s has been associated with accumulation of amyloid aggregates, not necessarily native amyloid monomers, as were secreted here. And finally, it’s a long way from a mouse secreting amyloid to concluding that abrading olfactory epithelium raise the risk of Alzheimer’s in people.

      1. In fact newer research points to amyloid plaques not even being related to the onset of Alzheimers, so I agree this research is unnecessary and stupid. Although every piece of research adds to our understanding of everything.

      2. Medical research has run off the rails years ago with its Dr. Frankenstein approach to experimental investigation that requires applying the most horrific and barbaric conditions to animals in the name of quality science I hope these people return as mice after death to have a taste of their own medicine.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *