Alzheimer Scotland is the leading dementia organisation in Scotland.

Today's story on 'catching' Alzheimer's disease

Thursday 10 September 2015

A study was published today (in Nature) which stated that the protein beta-amyloid was found in the brains of eight people who had been who had previously injected with human growth hormone. It was suggested that these people would have therefore gone on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The protein was observed in seven of the eight brains examined.

Some of today’s headlines have suggested that people can ‘catch’ Alzheimer’s disease, that it is in some way contagious, or that it can be caught through current medical or surgical procedures. There is no evidence of this. Alzheimer Scotland are deeply disappointed by the sensationalist and irresponsible nature of much of today’s coverage.

While this study is interesting, it is far too small to draw any conclusions. The injection of human growth hormone was discontinued in the United Kingdom in 1985, due to links with Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), which was the cause of death for all eight cases. Contrary to some reporting, no other surgical or medical procedures were examined in this study.

Furthermore, other hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, such as tau protein, were not found in any of the cases. Beta-amyloid protein deposits can occur in the brain as a part of aging and are not an automatic precursor for dementia symptoms. 

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