RESEARCHERS have described what they claim is the world’s youngest Alzheimer’s patient, a 19-year-old in Beijing, as an “intriguing” discovery that could shed light on the evolution of the disease that mostly affects the elderly.
The young patient first experienced difficulties concentrating when he was 17 and began to struggle with short-term memory loss, such as the inability to recall the previous days’ events or where he had left personal belongings, according to a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, an international peer-reviewed journal.
The study found that the patient’s memory continued to worsen, and he often misplaced items and even had trouble remembering whether he had eaten. He dropped out of school due to his condition, but was still able to live on his own.
While under hospital observation, the patient took a series of tests, including the most authoritative diagnosis examinations.
His results showed that the cerebrospinal fluid that acts as a cushion for the brain’s cortex was abnormal and he was suffering from mild brain atrophy, which meets the diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s.
Jia Longfei, a doctor at Xuanwu Hospital’s neurology department who was also involved in the study, said in an interview that the case is extremely rare because the patient is not only very young, but also carries no known genetic mutation associated with the disease.
Even though there are reports of cases of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in their 20s, most usually either have a family history of the disease or carry genetic mutations.
But comprehensive testing of the 19-year-old showed that he fitted neither circumstance.
Data from the National Health Commission shows that China has nearly 10 million Alzheimer’s patients.
The disease’s incidence among those aged 65 and above is 5% and the rate among people aged 80 and above is 30%. — China Daily/ANN