Claims Alzheimer's can be caught are 'misleading and unnecessarily concerning for the public', expert says

A study has raised questions about the safety of some medical procedures

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Thursday 10 September 2015 14:04
Comments

Suggestions it is possible to “catch” Alzheimer’s from routine dental surgery, blood transfusions or contaminated surgical instruments have been described as “misleading” and "unnecessarily concerning for the public" by an expert.

A new study suggesting the condition could be spread by certain types of surgical procedure has been the subject of a series of headlines across most major news outlets, including The Independent.

Published in the journal Nature, the research suggested for the first time that Alzheimer’s may be a kind of transmissible infection, raising further questions about the safety of some medical procedures, possibly including blood transfusions and invasive dental treatment, which may involve the transfer of contaminated tissues or surgical equipment.

The authors, who tested eight people who had died of CJD after receiving contaminated hormone injections, found amyloid, one of the abnormal proteins associated with Alzheimer’s, in six of them.

But Dr Clare Walton, research communications manager at the Alzheimer’s Society, echoed the authors’ point that this did not show you can “catch” Alzheimer’s disease by living with someone with it – nor that anyone with any medical procedures lined up should be worried.

There is also no evidence that any surgical procedure used today, including blood transfusions, routine surgery or dentistry, can transfer Alzheimer’s to a person from another person, because the researchers did autopsies on people who were injected with material derived from cadavers.

Dr Walton said: “No people with medical procedures lined up should be concerned with these headlines. This study didn’t look at any medical procedure that we do today, so extrapolate from it that they are a risk would be misleading.

“These headlines matter – Alzheimer’s and dementia is one of the most feared conditions there is, ad 850,000 people are currently living with dementia in Britain today.

“So [such claims] are misleading and unnecessary concerning for the public. It affects a lot of people and will worry a great deal more.”

The findings raise questions about some surgical procedures (AFP/Getty)

As the authors point out, Alzheimer’s is thought to occur chiefly as a result of inheriting certain genetic mutations causing the familial version of the disease, or from random “sporadic” events within the brain of elderly people, she added.

She said: “The cause is likely to be a complex interaction between genetic and lifestyle factors.”

A 2013 study showed no increased incidence of Alzheimer's disease in the 6,190 people who received injections, Dr Walton added.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in