If you have been up-to-date with the scientific-medical news this week, you will have seen how the media have crashed to death talking about news that has crossed borders: “Alzheimer’s could be contagious.” The MedCiencia team learned in the first instance through El Confidencial (whose title is the most sensationalist I’ve read lately). But to this great digital medium have joined others no less known as 20minutos (who has treated the news better, but not convinced). At least some have been able to focus better, such as ABC or ScienceXplora .
Today we are going to call for calm, and we will not only call things the way they are (as the term “contagious” is a dumb one in this case), but we will try to give some arguments against the same original study published recently in Prestigious journal Nature .
The controversial study on Alzheimer’s and its possible transmission between humans
First, let’s get into the matter. The study was the origin of the controversy by Dr. John Collinge and colleagues at University College London , who investigated by autopsies eight British patients between 36 and 51 years who died from a prion disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease . This was because in 1985 30,000 individuals with growth hormones from cadavers were treated, a technique soon abandoned because of the discovery of the development of this disease, which developed in up to 6.3% of children treated with Hormones according to the country after an incubation period of between 5 and 40 years.
This transmission of prions was precisely due to the use of pituitary glands from cadavers, because they were contaminated by prions, a type of pathological protein that had not been proven to be able to transmit (and repeat, transmitted, not spread) through medical procedures such as this one case.
It was speculated on whether other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, could also be transmitted through medical or surgical procedures. And that is what the study says, that the eight bodies investigated could have received another type of pathological protein, beta-amyloid , precursor of Alzheimer’s disease according to current knowledge of the disease.