WE all have bad habits that we know we should give up.
But scientists have now revealed that people who pick their nose could be at an increased risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.
Medics at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, revealed that bacteria can travel through the nose and into the brain.
It's here, they say, that the bugs create bacteria that are a telltale sign of Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's is devastating condition for both the person suffering with it and their loved ones.
The disease affects the brain and in the UK there are more than 42,000 people under the age of 65 living with the condition.
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It affects one in six people over the age of 80 and it's thought that around 850,000 people in total are suffering in the UK alone.
Writing in the journal Scientific Reports, the medics said that the bacteria chlamydia pneumoniae was able to use the nerve extending between the nasal cavity and the brain as a path to invade the nervous system.
The cells in the brain then responded.
Their reaction was to deposit amyloid beta protein – which is a key indicator of Alzheimer's.
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While the experts say the research is a 'world-first', it's important to note that this was just carried out on mice and has not yet been tested on human participants.
In order to prevent humans from developing the condition, the experts say you should avoid common daily habits.
Co-author Professor James St John, Head of the Clem Jones Center for Neurobiology and Stem Cell Research 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."
What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimers?
In the early stages of disease, the signs may be subtle at first.
However, over time they become more pronounced and begin to interfere with a person’s daily life.
While there are common symptoms, every person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is unique and will likely experience the disease differently.
But, for most, the earliest sign are problems with memory. Here are the five you should look out for.
As the disease progresses a person might:
- lose common items including keys and glasses around the house
- struggle to find the word they are looking for in conversation
- forget recent conversations or events
- get lost in a familiar place, or while on a familiar journey
- forget important anniversaries, birthdays or appointments
Though memory problems are the most common, there are other signs a person may be struggling with dementia.
- speech problems – a person may struggle to follow a conversation or find they are often repeating themselves
- problems judging distance, navigating stairs or parking the car
- difficulties making decisions and solving problems
- losing track of the day or date
The experts said that they are 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.
"We saw this happen in a mouse model, and the evidence is potentially scary for humans as well," Prof St John added.
Now the team are planning the next phase of their research – which they hope will prove that the same pathway exists in humans.
Prof St John added that there are others tests that can be detectors for the condition.
He said that a loss of sense of smell is a key determiner and added that smells tests when a person turns 60 could be beneficial.
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"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," he said.
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