At first glance, this is a very strange question – after all, Alzheimer’s disease is not an influenza virus that can be infected. What is this disease? Alzheimer’s disease (also known as senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type) is the most common form of dementia, a neurodegenerative disease. As a rule, it is found in people over 65, but early Alzheimer’s disease, a rare form of the disease, also exists. Typically, the disease begins with subtle symptoms, but progresses over time. The most commonly recognized early stages are a disorder of short-term memory, for example, the inability to remember recently memorized information. With the development of the disease, long-term memory is lost, speech and cognitive functions are impaired, the patient loses the ability to navigate in the environment and take care of himself.
The gradual loss of bodily functions leads to death. Experts do not yet have a consensus on what is the cause of the disease. But it is believed that the disease manifests itself due to a combination of several factors, including genetics, the environment and the characteristics of a person’s lifestyle. But now it looks like scientists have discovered a new cause – a group of “infectious” prion proteins. The research results have already been published in Nature. Prions are proteins that can be found in the human body without causing any problems. But in some cases, prions can cause disease. The problem is that prions can cause disease if they are improperly folded (see folding ). After that, the protein stops functioning normally and spreads through the human brain. Prions can form on their own, or be passed from body to body. They can even be transmitted through food (this is how mad cow disease spreads). It is already known that prions can cause certain diseases in humans (including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).
It is possible that prions can also be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, and the disease in this case is transmitted from person to person. So far, the research results require serious verification, but the scientists checked the medical history of eight patients who died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at the age of 36-51 years. These patients were exposed to a medical procedure during childhood that later turned out to transfer prions from person to person. In the brains of patients, a protein called beta-amyloid was found, which, according to scientists, is one of the causes of the onset and development of Alzheimer’s disease. Four patients showed a pathology similar to Alzheimer’s. So far, researchers cannot draw a clear picture of the effects of prions and amyloid beta on the human body. But scientists believe that certain types of surgeries or blood transfusions can cause the transmission of prions from person to person, which increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. There is no evidence yet, and the study with 8 patients can hardly be called large-scale and objective. But research on the effect of prions on the human body and the possibility of their transmission from person to person continues.