The Strange Connection Between Nose-Picking and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease, a prevalent form of dementia, impacts millions globally. While many attribute its onset to genetics and environmental factors, recent research hints at an unexpected factor: nose-picking.

The Surprising Connection Between Nose-Picking and Alzheimer's

In 2022, a study from Griffith University in Australia, published in Nature Scientific Reports, delved into the potential role of pathogens—either bacteria or viruses—in Alzheimer’s development. The study proposed that the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae might find its way to the brain via the olfactory nerve, linking the nose and brain. This bacterium, once in the brain, might be involved in the formation of Alzheimer’s-associated plaques.

How Does Nose-Picking Fit Into This?

Contrary to being a mere unsavory habit, nose-picking, as per the study, could harm the nasal lining. Such harm could pave the way for bacteria, like Chlamydia, to access the brain through the olfactory nerve.

Utilizing mice for their study, researchers intentionally damaged the mice’s nasal cavities to ascertain how bacteria might infiltrate the brain. Remarkably, they discovered that this bacterium could traverse the olfactory nerve, bypassing the blood-brain barrier—a defense mechanism that typically halts pathogens from invading the brain. Once the bacterium settled in the brain, it seemed to promote the buildup of the amyloid beta protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

Understanding the Link Between Pathogens and Alzheimer’s

This isn’t a novel concept; past studies have hinted at infections potentially instigating late-onset Alzheimer’s. The Griffith University study strengthens the theory that certain bacteria or viruses could precipitate Alzheimer’s development. Prof. James St John, a primary author of the study, remarked, “We believe various microorganisms might trigger Alzheimer’s onset.” Yet, he also acknowledged that bacteria alone might not be the sole factor; genetics could play a part.

Insights from Experts

Dr. Heather Snyder, from the Alzheimer’s Association and unaffiliated with the study, emphasized the multifaceted nature of Alzheimer’s and called for deeper research to corroborate the connection between pathogens and Alzheimer’s.

Given the mouse-centric nature of the research, the subsequent step would be to study these mechanisms in humans. Prof. St John verified that they’ve secured approval for a human study in Queensland, Australia, concentrating on early-stage late-onset Alzheimer’s patients and analyzing their nasal bacteria.

The Implications of Nose-Picking

While this study doesn’t conclusively link nose-picking to Alzheimer’s, it underscores potential health hazards like transmitting harmful bacteria, spreading infections, and causing tissue damage. It’s prudent to exercise caution in light of these preliminary findings.

As Dr. Emer MacSweeney, CEO of Re:Cognition Health, opines, “It’s uncertain whether nose-picking should be discouraged, but given these early mouse study results, caution seems advisable.”


Chacko, A., Delbaz, A., Walkden, H. et al. Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease risk. Sci Rep 12, 2759 (2022).

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