A 71-year-old man became the first HIV patient with Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers from Georgetown University have found. The study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring shows that HIV-associated brain inflammation does not prevent amyloid clumps formation, the cause of the degenerative disorder.
“This patient may be a sentinel case that disputes what we thought we knew about dementia in HIV-positive individuals,” says neurologist R. Scott Turner, head of the Memory Disorders Programme at Georgetown University Medical Centre.
Moreover, the researchers believe that some older individuals with HIV could have been misdiagnosed with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) when they could actually be suffering from Alzheimer’s. Apparently, HAND affects 30 to 50 percent of HIV-infected patients, with symptoms similar to the ones observed in Alzheimer’s.
“The medical community assumes that dementia with HIV is caused by HAND,” adds Turner. “Physicians haven’t considered Alzheimer’s, so it’s possible that a number of older HIV-positive individuals may be misdiagnosed.”
This opens up for speculation that patients with HAND and Alzheimer’s are suffering from a new type of mixed progressive dementia. As of now, both conditions are treated differently. So, the findings call for a new treatment that treats both condition.
The researchers warn that patients with HIV are increasingly suffering from dementia. Those over 55 years are the ones with the highest risk among the HIV-positive group, hence, the researchers urge further studies to help these individuals.
“This case report reveals important new insights into the specific issue of HIV-related neurological impairment,” concludes Jeffrey Crowley, program director of the National HIV/AIDS Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law. “This finding must lead to additional population-based studies, as well as timely clinical and programmatic interventions to better support individuals with HIV who are facing neurological decline.”