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Careless hospital procedures could be spreading Alzheimer's to patients

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Last September, the world of medicine shook their heads in firm disagreement at the study published by U.K. researchers that stated that Alzheimer’s disease can be caused by certain medical procedures. Nothing like this had been done or proven in a serious study before and, so far, researchers and doctors have been accustomed to Alzheimer’s being inherited, familial or even sporadic, but never acquired.

Even though the study was among the first advancing this hypothesis, and its findings still had to be corroborated by other studies, people immediately became concerned. In an attempt to settle the public worry about an outbreak, the U.K. Government’s Chief Medical Officer officially declared at the time that there was no evidence that Alzheimer’s could be transmitted in humans, particularly through a medical procedure.

Now, there IS evidence

The original, ground-breaking research concluded that a small group of people who were injected with human growth hormone when they were young and died from the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), had the amyloid-beta (A-beta) protein in their brains. There is no dispute concerning the function of the A-beta protein, which is considered to be a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease. These proteins form plaques on the surface of the brain, which are responsible for impairing brain function and highly likely to cause Alzheimer’s.

What was disturbing and really prompted agitation in the medical community, was the fact that the patients had died between the ages of 28 and 63. This unexpectedly young age, coupled with the medical procedure they all underwent, as well as the moderate to severe amounts of amyloid-beta found in their brains could not be swept under the carpet.

As it turns out, the study’s findings have since been verified by two other reputable institutions. These confirmed that traditional medicine may yet have another side effect in store for us: dementia. The new study that corroborates the initial findings was published in the Swiss Medical journal. This time, researchers tried a different approach in an attempt to determine whether the initial hypothesis was verifiable.

From growth hormone to tissue grafts

The latest study also involved patients who died from CJD, since the latter can be transmitted during operations that involve grafting nerve tissue from cadavers. However, the focus was switched from human growth hormone to patients who received various amounts of dura mater or brain membrane.

The study also involved 21 control subjects who had died of CJD, but hadn’t received any grafts. This allowed for a comparative and more objective analysis of the seven targeted patients who were subjected to the procedure.

The good news is that none of the seven patients had Alzheimer’s when they died. The bad news is that they all manifested significantly higher amounts of the A-beta protein than is normal in their age group, meaning that the disease had high chances of developing.

How amyloid-beta can be transmitted

In all seven of the patients, other causes for high amounts of A-beta protein have been eliminated, leaving very little room for doubt. A-beta protein was transmitted during the grafting procedure. While the procedure itself was banned almost 40 years ago, the transmission can still happen inadvertently.

The seeds of amyloid-beta can adhere to metal surfaces, such as surgical instruments. They also have a proven resistance to conventional sterilization processes used in hospitals, as well as formaldehyde inactivation. Consequently, it may happen that when a patient undergoes brain surgery or similar procedures, the seeds of A-beta from the instruments are transmitted.

While some believe this is very unlikely, the fact that amyloid-beta is transmissible cannot be ignored any longer. What about those cases of Alzheimer’s that are allegedly sporadic? Isn’t it likely that some developed via contaminated surgical instruments or medical products? More research and fewer excuses are needed on the part of medical institutions.

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