Prion dementia is becoming common in Japan

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In 2030, one in three Japanese will be 65 or older. This finding is worrying in light of a study by a team of researchers at Okayama University on the incidence and mortality of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in Japan. Even considered a rare brain disorder, cases of the disease almost doubled in a decade.

The most common variant of the disease is sporadic CJD (sCJD), responsible for 85% of cases and occurring at the end of middle age (around 60 years). The study, now published in the journal Scientific Reports, is a portrait of the progress of the disease in the country between 2005 and 2014.

“Despite the fact that sCJD is a rare disease, the phenomenon of an aging population can trigger an increase in the incidence of CJD,” the main author of the research, public health specialist Yoshito Nishimura, said in a statement.

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Vital national statistics on deaths associated with sCJD among individuals over 50 years were analyzed. The researchers also used surveillance data from cases of the disease – a service funded by the Japanese government.

The results showed that, in less than a decade, the absolute number of deaths increased significantly, as did mortality and the incidence of dementia cases associated with sDCJ. Disease registrations increased by an average of 6.4% per year, especially among elderly people over 70 years of age.

Other countries have experienced an increase in annual mortality rates from sCJD for the past 20 years, but the study points out that the numbers in Japan are above those released by the International Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Network.

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According to Nishimura, “unlike other types of dementia, which progress relatively slowly, patients with sCJD suffer in a way that advances rapidly. Thus, it is urgent to find effective strategies to improve the quality of life of patients and reduce the burden on caregivers ”.

Five years ago, more than 4.7 million Japanese people were living with dementia, and that number is expected to grow to 7 million by 2025. ”sCJD, although rare, will be more prevalent in the next decade. Legislators and health officials can use our findings to establish effective health policies, ”concludes Nishimura.


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