Most researchers believe that Alzheimer's disease is caused by amyloid plaques or protein tangles.

But NPR reports that another theory has been percolating in the scientific community for decades: that the memory-ravaging illness is caused by an infectious microbe. And one advocate is putting up $1 million of his own money to anyone who can provide proof of that hypothesis.


Leslie Norins holds a medical degree and spent his career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and in medical publishing. When he reviewed the literature on Alzheimer's several years ago, he was struck — so much evidence hinted that the disease could be caused by a bacteria, virus, fungi or parasite.

In 2016, for instance, 32 researchers signed an editorial calling for further research into the Alzheimer's germ hypothesis. Researchers interviewed by NPR agreed that the possibility was worth exploring.


Norins came to believe that not enough research money is spent investigating those alternate theories. So in January of this year, he announced the Alzheimer's Germ Question, a challenge with a $1 million prize for anyone who provides persuasive proof Alzheimer's is caused by a germ before the end of 2020.

"Hopefully, this challenge will help jump-start additional research interest globally in microbes," said Norins. "To not investigate guarantees we will find nothing."

READ MORE: Infectious Theory of Alzheimer's Disease Draws Fresh Interest [NPR]

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