Potential human transmission of amyloid β pathology: surveillance and risks

Lancet Neurol. 2020 Oct;19(10):872-878. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(20)30238-6. Epub 2020 Sep 16.


Studies in experimental animals show transmissibility of amyloidogenic proteins associated with prion diseases, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Although these data raise potential concerns for public health, convincing evidence for human iatrogenic transmission only exists for prions and amyloid β after systemic injections of contaminated growth hormone extracts or dura mater grafts derived from cadavers. Even though these procedures are now obsolete, some reports raise the possibility of iatrogenic transmission of amyloid β through putatively contaminated neurosurgical equipment. Iatrogenic transmission of amyloid β might lead to amyloid deposition in the brain parenchyma and blood vessel walls, potentially resulting in cerebral amyloid angiopathy after several decades. Cerebral amyloid angiopathy can cause life-threatening brain haemorrhages; yet, there is no proof that the transmission of amyloid β can also lead to Alzheimer's dementia. Large, long-term epidemiological studies and sensitive, cost-efficient tools to detect amyloid are needed to better understand any potential routes of amyloid β transmission and to clarify whether other similar proteopathic seeds, such as tau or α-synuclein, can also be transferred iatrogenically.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / etiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / metabolism
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / pathology
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / transmission
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / etiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Parkinson Disease / etiology
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Risk Factors


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides