News Room

Can Alzheimer’s be transmissible?

For the first time, there have been reports of medically acquired Alzheimer’s disease (AD).   Five people in the UK have been diagnosed with AD decades after being treated in their childhood with human growth hormone extracted from cadavers (c-hGH). In total 30,000 people have been treated with c-hGH worldwide between 1958 and 1985. Human genetic hormone is used to treat genetic disorders and growth deficiencies. Use of c-hGH was stopped in 1985 after three American patients developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a disease caused by an infectious particle called prions. The current study showed that some of the c-hGH also contained amyloid-beta protein, the protein known to accumulate in the brain of patients with AD.


These are the first reports of the transmission through medical or surgical procedures (though it has previously been performed in laboratory animals) and there has been no suggestion of transmission of AD from caring for or having physical contact with AD patients. It does stress the importance of even greater caution of sterilizing surgical instruments, handing tissues, and the accelerating use of therapeutic biologics (treatments created from human sources).


Previously AD has been designated as sporadic and inherited.  Now, iatrogenic (which means a medical complication) AD is likely to become an additional designation and AD may become recognized as a potentially transmissible disease. The authors believe patients with iatrogenic AD appear different from sporadic and inherited forms as some individuals do not have symptoms despite exposure to the amyloid-beta “seeds”. There is no need for panic given the low numbers of reported cases.

If you suspect you are developing Cognitive Impairment and possible AD, BeCareLink can help screen you for the earliest signs, allowing you to pursue diagnosis and treatment sooner.

The findings were published online January 29 in Nature Medicine

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *