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A novel approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease failed to preserve memory and function in a clinical trial, according to results disclosed Tuesday, but a promising signal in a subgroup of patients has the drug’s inventors optimistic about its future.

The treatment, called atuzaginstat, targets the bacteria responsible for gingivitis, which, according to years of compelling research, appears to play a role in the onset and advance of Alzheimer’s. But in a clinical trial involving about 650 patients with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s, the treatment missed its primary endpoint, proving no better than placebo at slowing patients’ decline as measured by tests of cognition and ability to complete basic activities.

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