Friday, September 18, 2015
Scientists fear Alzheimer's 'may be passed on in surgeries'
They said the proteins that cause dementia are a type called prions which can stick to metal surfaces, like surgical instruments, and are resistant to conventional sterilisation.
They suggested it could be theoretically possible to become infected with Alzheimer's seeds through a blood transfusion, brain surgery, or invasive dental work, like a root canal operation.
And because the incubation period can be up to 40 years, people could be unaware that they have been contaminated.
The scientists stumbled on the discovery while studying the brains of eight people who died of CJD. All had developed the disease after being injected with human growth hormone taken from bodies between 1958 and 1985, when the practice was banned.
Unexpectedly, four of the patients had huge levels of amyloid beta protein - a sticky deposit which forms among brain cells and stops them communicating with each other properly in Alzheimer's patients.
Smaller amounts were found in three others. Although none had developed dementia, scientists say it is likely they would have, had they lived longer.
"What we need to consider is that in addition to there being sporadic Alzheimer's disease and inherited or familial Alzheimer's disease, there could also be acquired forms of Alzheimer's disease," said lead scientist Prof John Collinge.
"What relevance this has to common forms of Alzheimer's disease out there, we don't know," he added.
The study is published in the journal 'Nature'