19-year-old diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, becomes world's youngest case

The study drives attention to the "heterogeneous" nature of dementia that can involve people at any age.
Deena Theresa
Representational picture.
Representational picture.

Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock 

A 19-year-old male from China has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, making him the youngest person with the disease. 

According to researchers from Capital Medical University's Xuanwu Hospital in Beijing, the adolescent's memory declined gradually over two years and had characteristics that were strong markers of Alzheimer's disease, including memory loss and hippocampal atrophy, a shrinkage that is an early sign of the disease.

Neurologists at a memory clinic in China ruled out other causes that could have triggered the patient's cognitive impairment and arrived at the conclusion that he met the diagnostic criteria for "probable" Alzheimer's disease.

The finding could change the perception that cognitive impairment rarely occurs in the youth, South China Morning Post reported.

"[The study] proposed to pay attention to the early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Exploring the mysteries of young people with Alzheimer's disease may become one of the most challenging scientific questions of the future," the authors said.

The adolescent had no recognized gene mutations

The authors stated that almost all Alzheimer's disease patients younger than 30 have pathological gene mutations. Before this diagnosis, the youngest patient with Alzheimer's was 21 years old. They carried the PSEN1 gene mutation, which results in the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain, leading to toxic plaques. This is a common feature of Alzheimer's.

Surprisingly, this case was different.

"This is the youngest case ever reported to meet the diagnostic criteria for probable [Alzheimer's disease] without recognized genetic mutations," the authors said, adding that almost all previous younger patients younger than 30 had known genetic mutations.

The patient began showing symptoms two years before the hospital consultation. A year later, his situation worsened when we began suffering a clear loss of short-term memory.

According to the study, he could not remember what had happened the previous day or where his belongings were stored. He also had trouble reading, and his reactions were delayed.

The person eventually dropped out of high school as he could not finish his homework, could not recall if he had eaten, and frequently lost his personal belongings. 

The nature of dementia can involve people at any age

George Perry, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and who was not involved in the study, told SCMS that further research was required to understand if Alzheimer's disease, like dementia, in youth was becoming more common. 

"This case brings attention to the heterogeneous nature of dementia that can involve people at any age," Perry, who is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, told SCMS.

The case report is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Study Abstract:

Alzheimer's disease (AD) primarily affects older adults. In this report, we present the case of a 19-year-old male with gradual memory decline for 2 years and World Health Organization-University of California Los Angeles Auditory Verbal Learning Test (WHO-UCLA AVLT) results also showing memory impairment. Positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance imaging with 18F fluorodeoxyglucose revealed atrophy of the bilateral hippocampus and hypometabolism in the bilateral temporal lobe. Examination of the patient's cerebrospinal fluid showed an increased concentration of p-tau181 and a decreased amyloid-β 42/40 ratio. However, through whole-genome sequencing, no known gene mutations were identified. Considering the above, the patient was diagnosed with probable AD.

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