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Surgical and dental experts comment on ‘possible evidence’ of human transmission of amyloid-beta pathology

08 Sep 2015

A weekly science journal Nature has tonight published a paper by Professor John Collinge.  This claims that a study of eight patients suggests that amyloid beta – a protein found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease - may potentially be transmissible via certain medical procedures.

Two RCS experts, Professor Nigel Hunt and Mr Richard Kerr, have responded to the study.

Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“This study alone does not provide any conclusive proof that Alzheimer’s disease can be transmitted from person to person. Dental practice carries no more risk than any invasive clinical procedure. This is new research in a field of relatively recent scientific enquiry that needs to be taken seriously with further research to inform any changes to all clinical and dental practice.

“In dentistry, patients are protected from infection risks through the widespread use of single use instruments. All dental instruments that are reused are covered either by guidance from NICE or guidance about decontamination in primary care dental practices. The findings from today’s study must be considered by all relevant organisations to ensure current guidance is as robust as it needs to be.”

Mr Richard Kerr, Consultant Neurosurgeon, Royal College of Surgeons Council Member and Society of British Neurological Surgeons President, 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 of course will inform any clinical decisions that need to be taken to manage and reduce even the smallest risk to patients.

“At the moment there is already guidance from NIHCE on the use of instruments and endoscopes that might be involved in the transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD / vCJD). These guidelines are currently being updated by NIHCE for publication later this year. The findings from today’s study must be considered by all relevant organisations and addressed in the same way.”

Note to Editors
 1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808.

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