A study published in the Nature journal earlier this week suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is ‘infectious’. Multiple news outlets including the BBC, The Independent and The Guardian have published the story however The Alzheimer’s society have strongly denied the claims and headlines.
The original report raises questions about certain surgical procedures, possibly including blood transfusions and invasive dental treatment which may involve the transfer of contaminated tissues or surgical equipment.
The study followed eight people who received a now-discontinued human growth hormone when they were children. The growth hormone was made up of parts of brain from dead people. The study found that seven of the eight subjects had early signs of the disease however half had sever deposits of a specific protein called amyloid-beta which was spread throughout their brain. This is a protein which found within the brain of those who have Alzheimer’s disease.
It is important to note that the eight people involved in the study all died between the ages of 36 and 51 and did not have Alzheimer’s disease before they passed away.
The Alzheimer’s Society have strongly denied claims that Alzheimer’s disease is contagious and have released a statement saying “There is no evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person, including via any current medical or dental procedures.”
Director of research at Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Doug Brown said in a released statement;
“While these findings are interesting and warrant further investigation, there are too many unknowns in this small, observational study of eight brains to draw any conclusions about whether Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted this way.
Notably, while seven of the eight brains studied had amyloid-beta deposits – a protein found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease – the presence of this alone does not mean that they would have gone on to develop the disease.
Injections of growth hormone taken from human brains were stopped in the 1980s. There remains absolutely no evidence that Alzheimer’s disease is contagious or can be transmitted from person to person via any current medical or dental procedures.”
Media headlines such as “You Can Catch Alzheimer’s” has a danger of creating a moral panic within the public sphere especially for those looking after people living with Alzheimer’s. We want to make it clear that Alzheimer’s disease is not infectious in any way. The Alzheimer’s Society further said, “Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a complex interplay of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors and there is no evidence that it can be caught from another person.”