NIH panel to launch urgent investigation amid evidence Alzheimer’s can SPREAD between people: Nearly 8,000 Americans received injection that can transmit memory-robbing condition
An NIH panel is to convene an urgent meeting amid fears that thousands of Americans are at risk of ‘catching’ Alzheimer’s.
A British study published on Monday found evidence of at least five people who ‘caught’ the memory-robbing disorder from a now-banned hormone treatment.
The growth hormones – harvested from the bodies of dead people – were laced with toxic amyloid beta protein ‘seeds’, or prions, which have been shown to cause early-onset dementia.
Health experts in the US – where nearly 8,000 children were injected with the therapy between the 1960s and 1980s – now fear cases may have gone undetected on this side of the Atlantic.
A spokesperson for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) told DailyMail.com: ‘Given this new information, the committee will meet to discuss the issue and re-analyze data for any possible associations with Alzheimer’s or dementia-related conditions.’
The US is preparing to re-analyze data to find cases where patients developed early-onset dementia after receiving the dangerous human growth hormone shots (stock image)
DailyMail.com understands that the meeting will take place in early February under the Public Health Service Interagency Coordinating Committee on Human Growth Hormone and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
Plans were drawn up in the hours after the UK study was released.
The panel will reexamine US data for signs that patients given the growth hormone injections have developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Minutes from previous meetings show the committee suspected that at least one American in their 60s had died of Alzheimer’s disease after receiving the jab as a child.
If a link is found, it could potentially open the door to potential lawsuits.
In the UK, where 1,800 children received the injections, the government previously agreed to pay up to $380,000 (£300,000) to people who suffered mental illness as a result of the injections.
The shots were administered between 1959 and 1985 to abnormally short children as young as four.
They contained human growth hormone (HGH) harvested from the pituitary glands of cadavers to stimulate their growth.
The technique was then banned and doctors used synthetic hormones instead after it was revealed that some groups were infected with prions which led to a fatal and incurable brain disorder called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). CJD itself is closely related to ‘mad cow disease’.
Academics now believe that other medical and surgical procedures may pose a risk of spreading Alzheimer’s, as prions – which accumulate in the brain and kill neurons – can survive hospital sterilization methods.
As prions accumulate in the brain, plaque deposits can occur in the brain. Abnormal build-up of proteins in and around neurons is thought to be what causes Alzheimer’s.
Experts insist that the disease cannot spread from person to person in the traditional sense, like for example Covid.
Five patients were among 1,848 who were injected as children with growth hormones contaminated with toxic amyloid beta protein ‘seeds’. All five came down with the same rare early-onset form of the devastating dementia condition. Others who received the same treatment are now considered ‘at risk’
“It is not communicable in the sense of a viral or bacterial infection,” said Dr. John Collinge, co-senior study author and a professor of neurology at University College London, said during a news conference on January 25.
‘You can’t get Alzheimer’s by living with someone with Alzheimer’s, being a carer or a healthcare worker,’ he added.
Of the 1,800 people in the UK who received the jab up to 1985, at least 80 developed CJD while at least five suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
In the US, 35 cases of CJD were detected out of the 7,700 patients who received the faulty shots.
Experts say this is due to a change in how the jabs were manufactured in 1977, which led to an improved purification technique that filtered out dangerous proteins.
In the US, the shots were administered for research purposes by the National Hormone and Pituitary Program (NHPP) – funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Doctors stopped using the hormone in 1985, when scientists detected three cases of CJD among young men who got the shots — and a link was suspected.
People currently receiving human growth hormone are not at risk of the complications because the hormone is now made by genetically modified bacteria in a laboratory, removing the risk of contamination with dangerous proteins.
The NIH spokesperson added: ‘No data from the (US cohort) suggested an association between cadaveric human growth hormone and Alzheimer’s.’
Alzheimer’s was previously believed to come in two forms – a ‘sporadic’ variant suffered by thousands of people over 65, which is by far the most common, and a genetic early-onset type that runs in families.
But the team at University College London in the UK who carried out the British study say they have now identified a third variant, slightly different from the others and very rare, which can be passed from one person to another.
UCL scientists were allowed to test batches of the contaminated growth hormone that had been stored as a dried powder for decades.
They tested the decades-old powder on mice and found that it triggered the production of proteins that caused Alzheimer’s.
An NIH spokesperson added: ‘People in the United States who received human growth hormone treatment before 1985 and want additional information can call 1-800-860-8747 or email email@example.com. gov.’