There may be a theoretical risk of Alzheimer’s Disease being transmissible during surgical procedures, in the manner of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
This hypothesis has arisen as a result of the examination of the brains of eight patients who had died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (caused by earlier contaminated injections of human-derived growth hormones). Their brains showed unexpected signs of amyloid deposits in four cases, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease. The presence of these particular misfolded proteins was surprising given the relatively young ages of the deceased (between 31 and 51) and because these individuals they had no family history of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr John Collinge from University College London has speculated whether amyloid protein could be spread accidentally during medical and surgical procedures, particularly via contaminated surgical instruments or injections. Earlier animal studies support the hypothesis, apparently.
To avoid arousing undue public concern, it has been stressed that the risks of contamination by the “protein seeds” of Alzheimer’s Disease as a result of routine medical or dental procedures are purely speculative and hypothetical at this stage. Experts are confident that NHS patients in the UK are well-protected already. They caution that the above findings are inconclusive and do not imply necessarily that Alzheimer’s Disease is infectious. There is no direct evidence that blood transfusions, dentistry etc. could pose any risk.
More research is needed, to assess the nature and level of risk.
Roberts, M. (2015). ‘Transmittable Alzheimer’s’ concept raised. London: BBC Health News, September 9th 2015.
No evidence that Alzheimer’s can be transmitted through surgery. London: NHS Choices Behind the Headlines, September 9th 2015.
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Jaunmuktane, Z. Mead, S. [and] Ellis, M. [et al] (2015). Evidence for human transmission of amyloid-β pathology and cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Nature. September 9th 2015, 525, pp. 247–250.
“The concept that ‘seeding’ is involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders in the brain is an area of intense study in a number of laboratories worldwide… this study provides important new information in the human context”.
New clinical study strengthens the possibility that the dissemination of misfolded proteins may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. London: Medical Research Council (MRC), September 10th 2015.