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Is Alzheimer's Contagious? Surgical Instruments May Spread Amyloid Protein Linked To Neurological Disease

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Findings of the new study suggest that proteins linked to Alzheimer's disease could be transmitted through infected surgical instruments.

Buildup Of Amyloid And CAA

In a study published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica, Sebastian Brandner, from the UCL Institute of Neurology, and colleagues looked at the medical records of four people who suffered from brain bleeding caused by the buildup of amyloid beta in the blood vessels of the brain.

The buildup of amyloid can make the blood vessels of the brain brittle causing them to leak or burst, a condition known as cerebral amyloid angiopathy. CAA does not usually develop until people are in their 60s or older.

Amyloid Proteins In CAA Patients Possibly Transmitted During Neurosurgery

Of the four individuals who all experienced brain bleeds linked to amyloid deposits in the brain, none had known genetic causes that predispose them to CAA early.

Nonetheless, these individuals underwent neurosurgery decades earlier when they were children or teenagers, suggesting that it may be possible for the protein to be transmitted through neurosurgical instruments.

The researchers said those amyloid proteins may have been seeded into these individuals during brain surgery when they were young from instruments that were previously used to operate on people with Alzheimer's disease.

"Here, we present four patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures during childhood or teenage years and presented with intracerebral hemorrhage approximately three decades later, caused by severe CAA," the researchers wrote in their study.

Proteins linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a degenerative and fatal brain disorder, are also known to spread through contaminated medical tools and during surgical procedures.

Researchers are investigating if amyloid proteins can also spread between patients through infected medical tools and during operations.

"These findings raise the possibility that Aβ pathology may be transmissible, as prion disease is, through neurosurgical procedures," the researchers said.

Can Alzheimer's Spread From One Patient To Another?

The researchers said that their findings do not necessarily mean that Alzheimer's disease is contagious. Although amyloid beta is considered as one of the hallmark proteins of Alzheimer's disease, the researchers did not find evidence of the neurological illness in the patients involved in their study.

"We have found new evidence that amyloid beta pathology may be transmissible. This does not mean that Alzheimer's disease can be transmitted, as we did not find any significant amount of pathological tau protein which is the other hallmark protein of Alzheimer's disease," Brandner said.

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