People who are hospitalized with infection may have a greater risk of developing dementia later in life, a study in JAMA Network Open has found. The highest rates of dementia were found among people who had previously been hospitalized with respiratory, urinary tract, skin, blood and circulatory system, or hospital-acquired infections. Ryan T. Demmer, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and colleagues analyzed data from 15,688 people who enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study between 1987 and 1989. The participants had a mean age of 54.7 years at enrollment and were followed up a maximum of 32 years through 2019. During the follow-up, 19% of the participants received a diagnosis of dementia. There were 23.6 diagnoses of dementia per 1,000 person-years in participants who had been hospitalized with infection, compared with 5.7 diagnoses of dementia per 1,000 person-years in participants who had not been hospitalized with infection. This represents a 70% increase in risk of developing dementia for participants who had been hospitalized with infection, the researchers wrote.though the study was not designed to tease out why infection appeared to increase dementia risk, the researchers noted several possible reasons. “[B]lood and circulatory system infections could impact dementia risk because of the brain’s high vascularity, whereas urinary tract infections could be more likely to lead to sepsis or bacteremia,” they wrote. “In addition, there is substantial evidence that infections increase risk for vascular and metabolic illnesses known to be factors associated with increased risk of dementia, such as stroke, heart failure, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.”  Demmer and colleagues wrote that future research should consider whether noting a history of infections in in dementia screening could improve identification of preclinical dementia. “More importantly, our findings could inform approaches to mitigate or prevent dementias through accounting for the deleterious effects on cognitive and neurological health accrued throughout the lifetime due to infections and hospitalizations,” they concluded. (SOURCE: APA Psychiatric News Alert)