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Thursday, September 10, 2015

ALZHEIMERS CAN BE CONTAGIOUS - The infecting prion is resistant to sterilization - It can spread through surgery, dental work, blood transfusions, growth hormone treatments, and more.

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Scientists believe a protein known to be a hallmark of Alzheimer's can be passed in the same way as the key protein that marks CJD
The rate of new Alzheimer's disease cases is exploding and patients are getting younger, some of them in their thirties.  

A new study found that Alzheimer's disease may spread like infectious Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease or CJD.
The prions that cause both diseases are similar, and impervious to sterilization.  This means patients could contract the disease through dental work, surgery and blood transfusions.
Another cause of the epidemic of Alzheimer's and so-called dementia epidemic could be the consumption of meat contaminated with mad cow disease.  
During the 1996 mad cow disease outbreak in the UK meat eaters were warned that this brain disease was passed on from animal to animal through feed (which contained discards from sick animals), and to humans who ate the meat. 

At the height of the mad cow crisis the meat industry launched a campaign to appear to be monitoring for sick animals at the farm and at the slaughterhouse.  This was done to reassure consumers, but mad cow cases continue to appear, so the disease has not been eradicated.  
The meat of sick animals can end up at the supermarket because there is no fail-proof way to detect mad cow disease in every single animal that reaches the slaughterhouse. 
The meat from the California slaughter operation was used in the National School Lunch Program, which fed about 31 million school children in 2012.Only those in the last stages of the disease, when they are stumbling about, are discarded, but we can't be sure of that either.  There is photographic evidence of very sick animals being dragged to be killed and processed.  (Photo on the right.)  Read more here:
Canada still bans people who have lived in the UK from giving blood because they may have the variant ​Creutzfeldt-Jakob (vCJD), sometimes called the variant or human equivalent of mad cow disease.
There is no licensed test available worldwide to test for vCJD,  and the incubation period before symptoms show up is currently unknown and can last for years.
A shocking study:  how prions can bind to grass and transmit disease from one animal to another:
PRIONS FROM SICK DEER CAN PASS FROM DEER TO GRASS TO COW TO HUMAN - PRIONS CAUSE BRAIN DISEASESPrions that cause brain disease can pass from a wild animal urine to grass, to the cow who eats that grass, to the human who consumes beef:
A few weeks this blog published an astounding study:  that prion-caused brain diseases can be passed on from a sick wild animal such as deer, to the grass on which he urinates, to the cow who eats the grass, to the human that eats the beef.
The study showed that prions can bind to plants and be taken into their roots, where they may travel to the stem and leaves.
Neither washing nor cooking plants will eliminate the contamination.  Just as cooking contaminated beef did not halt the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), another prion-caused disease

Prions have been held responsible for a number of degenerative brain diseases, including mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia, kuru, and an unusual form of hereditary dementia known as Gertsmann-Straeussler-Scheinker disease.
Read more  about this particular form of disease transmission here: 

New study warns that CJD, that causes dementia, can be passed on during surgery, dental work, and blood transfusions. 
The Daily Mail:

  • Potentially explosive new study suggests disease is spread like CJD
  • Fears it could be caught from blood transfusions, ops and dental work
  • Leading brain surgeon warns sterilisation methods may not protect
  • Protein marker linked to Alzheimer's behaves in a similar way to CJD

  • In a nutshell, what’s this all about?

    Continue reading, including related articles on CJD, Mad Cow Disease, and others.

    • Scientists have found a protein that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of men and women in their 30s, 40s and early 50s.
    • This is much younger than normal and the scientists say the most likely explanation is that they were infected with it following treatment with contaminated hormones.
    • It had been thought that Alzheimer’s could not spread between people and was either caused by bad genes or ageing.
    • How did they get infected?
    • The seven patients were among 1,850 Britons given hormone jabs when children to treat stunted growth.
    • The injections, which started in 1959, contained growth hormones extracted from 800,000 human brains, and were the best treatment available at the time.
    • The scientists can’t be sure but they say their work ‘strongly suggests’ that some of the jabs contained the Alzheimer’s protein.
    • It was already known that some were contaminated with CJD.
    • What does it mean for me?
    • It raises concerns that the Alzheimer’s amyloid beta protein can be passed between people in the same way as CJD.
    • This means that it could potentially be spread via blood transfusions, brain surgery and corneal transplants.
    • Even dentistry may be a risk.
    • Lead researcher Professor John Collinge stresses that his study provides no evidence that dental work is dangerous.
    • However, he also said the possibility needs to be considered.
    • But aren’t medical instruments sterilised?
    • Yes but the amyloid beta protein clings to metal and is resistant to boiling water and formaldehyde.
    • Some experts say more research is needed but the Department of Health says there is no cause for concern and that the NHS has ‘extremely stringent’ procedures to minimise infection risk from surgical equipment.
    • Many dental instruments are only used once and the study doesn’t mean Alzheimer’s can be caught by everyday contact such as kissing or by caring for someone with the disease. 
    • What about those given growth hormone jabs?
    • Injections made from human brains are no longer in use.
    • Those treated before they were withdrawn in 1985 and are concerned should speak to their doctor.

    Alzheimer’s disease can be caught from blood transfusions, operations and dental work, it is feared.
    A potentially explosive study has provided the first evidence that the devastating condition can, like mad cow disease, spread through ‘medical accidents’.
    The British researcher, Professor John Collinge, said we ‘need to rethink our view of Alzheimer’s and evaluate the risk of it being transmitted inadvertently to patients’.
    One of the UK’s leading brain surgeons warned that we don’t know if the techniques used sterilise medical instruments are effective and said that the research ‘must be taken seriously’.
    However, others urged caution, saying the study was small and it does not prove that Alzheimer’s disease is contagious.
    At least 500,000 Britons are living with the incurable condition and, until now, it was thought it was either caused by faulty genes or a combination of bad luck and ageing.
    Professor Collinge, of University College London stumbled on the link with Alzheimer’s when inspecting the brains of eight people who had died from CJD, the human form of mad cow disease.
    They had caught CJD after being given injections of human hormones as children to treat growth problems.
    To his great surprise, he found a protein that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s in the brains of seven of the eight of the patients.
    In four of them, levels of the memory-robbing amyloid beta protein were ‘severe’.
    Writing in the prestigious journal Nature, he said that those studied were aged between 36 and 51 and such brain damage is ‘simply not seen’ in people of that age.
    With no evidence that CJD somehow triggers the build-up of the protein, Professor Collinge said the most likely answer is that it, like the CJD, had been lurking in the hormone injections.
    None had actually developed full-blown Alzheimer’s but they may have done if they had lived longer.
    Some 1,850 British children with growth problems were treated with hormones extracted from ground up brain tissue before the procedure was banned in 1985.
    Around 1,500 are still alive and Professor Collinge said some of them may still develop Alzheimer’s disease.
    Worryingly, there is no complete record of who was treated – meaning many will have had no advance warning of the bombshell.
    The study also has implications for the wider population.
    Professor Collinge said the similarities between the amyloid beta protein of Alzheimer’s and the prion protein that causes CJD means we must question if the two can spread in the same way.
    He said it is possible that contaminated medical instruments, blood transfusions and dentistry could all lead to the amyloid beta protein being passed from one person to the next.

    The protein ‘sticks avidly’ to metal surfaces, such as surgical instruments, and it isn’t clear if it is killed off by conventional sterilisation techniques.

    Professor Collinge said that while transmission by blood transfusions is ‘possible’, surgical contamination is a bigger threat. 

    Even dentistry can’t be given the all clear. 

    The professor said: ‘I think one would have to consider whether certain types of dental treatment are relevant’, adding that more research would be ‘prudent’.

    However, he stressed that he had not proved that the seeds of Alzheimer’s can be passed from person to person and urged people not to panic.

    Professor Collinge said: ‘In terms of people worrying about this, it is important you understand that this relates to a very special situation, where people have been injected with extracts of human tissue.

    ‘In no way does this suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is in any way contagious.

    ‘You can’t catch it by living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease or by caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

    ‘I don’t think anyone should delay or rethink having surgery on the basis of this finding.  I don’t think that any immediate action needs to be taken.’

    Richard Kerr, president of the Society of British Neurological Surgeons and a consultant brain surgeon, said: ‘This is new information in a field of highly complex scientific enquiry that needs to be taken seriously.  

    'With such a small study, however, further research is needed so we can learn more about transfer and whether existing decontamination procedures are effective.

    ‘This will inform any clinical decisions that need to be taken to manage and reduce even the smallest risk to patients.’

    Dr Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer’s Society, said the findings were ‘interesting’ but contain ‘too many unknowns’.

    He added: ‘Injections of growth hormones taken from human brains were stopped in the 1980s.  ‘There remains absolutely no evidence that Alzheimer’s disease is contagious or can be transmitted from person to person via any current medical procedures.’

    The Department of Health stressed that the study didn’t provide any evidence that Alzheimer’s can spread through medical procedures.

    Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, said: ‘This was a small study on only eight samples.  ‘We monitor research closely and there is a large research programme in place to help us understand and respond to the challenges of Alzheimer's.  I can reassure people that the NHS has extremely stringent procedures in place to minimise infection risk from surgical equipment, and patients are very well protected.’ 



    What is a prion?
    Alzheimer’s disease is now considered a “prion disease” by some scientists. Prions, short for proteinaceous infectious particles, are misfolded proteins that carry the ability to trigger further proteins to misfold, leading to debilitating brain disorders, such as CJD in humans, BSE in cattle and scrapie in sheep.
    Prions are unique in being an infectious agent without any genes, unlike viruses or bacteria.
    They are extremely tenacious, sticking to metal surfaces of surgical instruments and surviving the high temperatures and chemical agents that kill off infectious viruses and microbes.





    What is CJD or Cretuzfeldt-Jakob disease?

    Variant CJD affects younger people at an average age of 28 years. This form of CJD can develop from eating beef that was infected with BSE. Also, variant CJD has been reported to be transmitted by a blood transfusion from a person with variant CJD in the United Kingdom.
    There may be several years between the time a person is exposed to the disease and the first prions become misshapen, but once the symptoms do begin, the disease moves quickly.
    For variant CJD only: Eating beef from countries with a relatively high rate of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) may increase risk.

    How does Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease affect the person?

    Classic CJD can look like many other dementias. It comes on quickly and the decline in thinking ability also moves quickly once symptoms appear.  The person may have:
    • Mood swings
    • Memory problems
    • A lack of interest and not act like himself
    • Rapidly progressing dementia with a loss of memory and thinking abilities
    • Difficulty with balance when walking
    • Clumsiness
    • Vision problems, including blindness
    • Stiff limbs
    • Muscle jerks or twitching
    • Difficulty speaking
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • “Akinetic mutism” (the person can move her eyes and seem alert, but cannot speak or voluntarily move)
    Read more -


    Mad Cow Disease Still Menaces
     U.K. Blood Supply

    The worry is that the disorder, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), has left an unknown mark on the U.K. blood supply, and that a hidden population of carriers might lead to another wave of cases.
    vCJD, which first appeared in England in 1996, is a brain disorder linked to consuming meat from cattle infected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), informally known as mad cow disease.
    At first vCJD causes psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety, and neurological symptoms such as difficulty walking. The brain then deteriorates rapidly, and death occurs a little over a year after the onset of symptoms. There is no cure.

    New food supply safeguards in the U.K. and elsewhere have dramatically cut down the incidence of mad cow disease, and only a handful of new vCJD cases have emerged over the past decade. But the misshapen proteins, or prions, associated with vCJD likely can be transmitted through blood from an asymptomatic donor, which is what continues to worry public health officials.

    Read more


    Canada still bans those who lived in Britain from donating blood
    Read more


    Mad Cow Disease in humans

    "Mad cow" disease is an infectious disease caused by prions that affect the brains of cattle. The actual name of the disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a name that refers to the changes seen in brain tissue of affected cows.
    Abnormal proteins called prions are found in brain tissue of diseased cattle and appear to be the particle that transmits the infection. Characteristic changes are seen in the brain of infected cattle.
    Infection leads to tiny holes in parts of the brain, giving the tissue a sponge-like appearance when viewed with a microscope. These so-called spongy holes cause slow deterioration within the cow's brain and eventually other symptoms develop affecting the whole body. Death follows.
    If humans eat diseased tissue from cattle, they may develop the human form of mad cow disease known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) or new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD).
    The disease was named after the researchers who first identified the classic condition. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in its classic form usually occurs in older people either through an inherited tendency of the brain to change or the disease occurs spontaneously for no apparent reason.
    The type identified as occurring from eating diseased cattle occurs in younger people and has atypical clinical features, with prominent psychiatric or sensory symptoms at the time of clinical presentation and delayed onset of neurologic abnormalities.
    These neurologic abnormalities include ataxia within weeks or months, dementia (loss of memory and confusion) and myoclonus late in the illness, a duration of illness of at least six months, and a diffusely abnormal nondiagnostic electroencephalogram.
    The transmissible agents that cause the disease in both cattle and humans are abnormal protein particles called "prions." Prions are not like bacteria or viruses that cause other infectious diseases; rather, they are considered infectious abnormal proteins that are able to "induce abnormal folding of specific normal cellular proteins" according to the CDC. The CDC further states that the abnormal folding of proteins, especially in brain tissue, is responsible for the signs and symptoms of the disease.
    The abnormal prions are found in the brain, spinal cord, eye (in the retina), and other tissues of the nervous system of affected animals or humans. In addition, prions can be found outside the nervous system in locations including bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes. Low levels of prions may also be found in blood.
    Prions are highly resistant to heat, ultraviolet light, radiation, and disinfectants that normally kill viruses and bacteria. Prions may infect humans who eat meat from infected cattle. Even cooking meat infected with BSE does not eliminate the prions or the risk.
    Once infection occurs, there is a long incubation period that typically lasts several years. When prions reach a critical level in the brain, symptoms such as depression, difficulty walking, and dementia occur and progress rapidly.
    Scientists believe that BSE is transmitted from animals to humans when humans eat meat from infected animals. The content of infected brain tissue may be higher in some food products than others, and it may also depend on the way the animal was slaughtered.
    BSE can be transmitted from one human to another through cannibalism or through transplantation of infected tissue. Consequently, certain human blood products and blood donations are not accepted from people who have lived in areas of the world where BSE outbreaks have occurred in cattle. BSE has been shown to be transmissible by blood transfusion in an experimental model using sheep. The U.K. surveillance unit for vCJD has also reported three cases of vCJD that occurred as a result of blood transfusion.


    Prions that pass from sick animal to grass to cow to human

    Fascinating articles on prions on Discovery Magazine

    More articles on microbes on this blog


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