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Medical News Today (MNT)Alzheimer’s May Have Been Transmitted by No-longer-used Medical Procedure: What to Know

Iatrogenic Alzheimer’s Disease: Uncovering the Link Between Past Medical Treatments and Early-Onset Dementia

Recent research has shed light on a concerning phenomenon where individuals treated in childhood with pituitary-derived growth hormone for growth-related disorders have developed early-onset dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, decades later. This unexpected outcome has been traced back to treatments administered between 1959 and 1985, which were contaminated with amyloid-beta proteins, historically associated with Alzheimer’s pathology. The findings underscore the potential for certain medical interventions to inadvertently transmit neurodegenerative conditions, prompting a reevaluation of safety protocols in medical and surgical procedures.

Key Points:

  • The medical procedure implicated in these findings involved injections with cadaver-derived pituitary growth hormone (c-hGH), which has been discontinued due to safety concerns related to contamination.
  • Researchers identified a correlation between the administration of contaminated c-hGH and the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers in individuals, beginning as early as their 40s.
  • The contaminated c-hGH was found to be associated with amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles of tau proteins in the brain, key markers of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting a direct link to the treatment.
  • Similarities were observed between the transmission of Alzheimer’s in this context and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD), another neurodegenerative disorder transmitted through contaminated medical treatments.
  • The study emphasizes that while iatrogenic Alzheimer’s may be rare, it highlights the importance of stringent safety measures in preventing accidental transmission of neurodegenerative diseases through medical and surgical procedures.
  • No evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s disease can be casually transmitted between people in everyday activities, mitigating concerns about direct person-to-person contagion.
  • The findings open discussions on other potential routes of transmission for neurodegenerative diseases, including through surgical instruments and possibly blood transfusions, warranting further research.

“In the last 10 years there have been a lot of discussions that diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could be transmitted like prion diseases, from one person to another. Does it happen under other circumstances, like blood transfusions? The study opens the door for the possibility.”
– Dr. Claudio Soto, Professor of Neurology and Director of the George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Brain Disorders, UT Health Houston

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