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Alzheimer’s Disease Found To Be Transmitted Through Medical Procedures Decades Ago, Study Finds

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Researchers have identified cases of Alzheimer’s disease triggered by a specific medical treatment, linking growth hormone treatments to the development of the disease.

The study found that patients treated with a now-obsolete form of growth hormone, extracted from deceased people, showed increased amyloid-beta protein in the brain, leading to Alzheimer’s symptoms.

The transmission of amyloid-beta pathology occurred through repeated treatments with contaminated material.

“We have found that it is possible for amyloid-beta pathology to be transmitted and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” author Dr. Gargi Banerjee said.

“This transmission occurred following treatment with a now-obsolete form of growth hormone, and involved repeated treatments with contaminated material, often over several years,” he said.

The study suggests potential evidence for a rare but transmissible form of Alzheimer’s, emphasizing the need to prevent accidental transmission in medical or surgical procedures.

“There is no suggestion whatsoever that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted between individuals during activities of daily life or routine medical care,” lead author Professor John Collinge said.

“The patients we have described were given a specific and long-discontinued medical treatment that involved injecting patients with material now known to have been contaminated with disease-related proteins,” he added.

While the study population is small, the findings raise the question of a possible third type of Alzheimer’s, requiring replication and confirmation for credibility.

“The study describes just five Alzheimer’s patients out of the more than 1,800 people who were known to have received growth hormone in this way,” Dr. Rehan Aziz said.

“Remarkably, the patients all developed Alzheimer’s dementia at young ages, though several of them had complicated histories that may have contributed.”

“The research raises the question of whether beta-amyloid protein can propagate itself, leading to cascading memory loss and worsening Alzheimer’s pathology,” he added.

The study also highlighted the importance of understanding and eliminating possible risks of pathogen transmission in medical practices.

“You can’t catch Alzheimer’s by taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s,” Alzheimer’s Association director Christopher Weber said. “Alzheimer’s disease is not transmissible through the air, or by touching or being near someone with Alzheimer’s.”

“Based on the handful of cases they examined, the authors propose the idea of a ‘rare acquired’ Alzheimer’s, a third explanation for the beginnings of the disease along with sporadic Alzheimer’s and genetic Alzheimer’s,” he said.

“However, the study population (eight in this paper) is very small, and these are the only known cases in the literature. Thus, this possible third type of Alzheimer’s is a novel idea, but needs replication and confirmation to add credibility.”

“We also transfer human Alzheimer’s genes into animals to initiate abnormal, Alzheimer’s-like processes in their brains — but these things do not happen in daily life or in routine medical procedures,” he said. “They are extraordinary occurrences.”

“Bottom line: We shouldn’t put amyloid-beta into people’s brains, either accidentally or on purpose,” he said. “And appropriate measures should be in place to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

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