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Nose-picking tends to be frowned upon by our society, because it is gross and, well, it’s bad manners. However, according to a recent study, the negatives of nose-picking could go well beyond just bad manners.

The study was carried out by scientists from Griffith University in Austalia. The researchers ran tests with a bacteria called Chlamydia pneumoniae which can cause pneumonia. Additionally, this bacteria has been detected in the majority of human brains that had been affected by late-onset dementia.

What they discovered was that the bacteria in question had the ability to travel up the olfactor nerve, which joins the nasal cavity to the brain. Unfortunately, the bacteria could damage the nasal epithelium (thin tissue that runs along the roof of our nasal cavity) which cayse a far more serious infection.

In turn, the mice brains deposited the amyloid-beta protein in response to te infection, and this protein is typically found in large concentrations in those who have Alzheimer’s.

“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,” said Dr. James St John, a co-author of the study.

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

Additionally, they stated that this infection could occur in weeks to months after the intranasal inoculation. Put simply, this bacteria could quickly travel up our sinuses and into our brain, causing a response that likely contributes to diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

However, St John did agree that the study would need to be confirmed on human patients. “We need to do this study in humans and confirm whether the same pathway operates in the same way,” he said. “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.”

And while we all may say we don’t pick our nose, the reality is that we all have at least one time in our life. It’s not a rare thing, and some studies have found that 9 out of every 10 people pick their nose. However, if this study turns out to be proven in humans (and the researchers are hopeful that it will) it could mean that one of our grossest habits could contribute if not cause a disease that has plagued us for quite some time.