Multiple system atrophy is a rare neurogenerative disease(1), the exact etiology and the pathogenesis of the disease is unknown and many believes it is sporadic and some say it is inherited, it is an infectious disease and can be transmitted to other people, some say it is due to autoimmunity, some studies say trauma can initiate multiple system atrophy, and some studies say pesticides can be a cause but none of these theories are proved with adequate evidence. Therefore, the exact cause is not known however, it is believed that the cause can be multifactorial and genes, environmental factors and lifestyle factors can all contribute it to the manifestation of the disease. Many studies are ongoing to find the cause of this debilitating and fatal disease and still there has not been an exact cause found out with proper evidence and proof.

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Is Multiple System Atrophy Contagious?

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Is Multiple System Atrophy Contagious?

There is not much evidence available to prove if multiple system atrophy is contagious or not.(2) There was an article released by University of California – San Francesco in 2015 on “Multiple System Atrophy (Prion) may be contagious, resembles Parkinson’s disease– A danger to Clinicians” says that MSA is a new type of prion disease. Prions are normally found in the human brains however, the exact function of it is unknown. Abnormal prions occur from an abnormal folding of the normal cellular protein prion. This abnormal folding of the prion causes rapidly progressive brain damage which is fatal and neurodegenerative disease is one type of brain damage.

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This article was published on experiments done in Prusiner’s lab in 2013, brain tissue from dead multiple system atrophy patients have been taken and the mice were exposed to it and the mice developed neurodegeneration. The brains of the infected mice had high levels of human alpha-synuclein (in all cases of multiple system atrophy clumps of abnormal alpha-synuclein protein is found in many parts of the brain and spinal cord) and the infected mice brain tissue transmitted the disease to other mice as well. The study emphasized that health care providers, laboratory staff and people doing research studies on multiple system atrophy patients should take extra precautions when dealing with an multiple system atrophy patient as most neurodegenerative disease can be due to prions disease and it can be contagious.

Then in 2018, the above-mentioned article was reviewed by a group of professionals and they concluded that there is not adequate evidence to prove about the infective nature of α-synuclein aggregates in humans. The transmission of misfolded α-synuclein was reported mainly in animal models and there has not been any evidence about multiple system atrophy transmitting from one patient to another. Therefore, they suggested that patients should be reassured that multiple system atrophy is not contagious or transmitted from one person to another even with close contact. They also suggested that standard precautions should be taken by people handling multiple system atrophy patients’ brains and other tissues. Also, the equipment used for multiple system atrophy patients should be thoroughly disinfected. Further studies are needed to prove the transmissibility of the α-synuclein (2) and how exactly it spreads in order to confirm that multiple system atrophy is contagious. They have told that multiple system atrophy is not contagious and patients, caregivers, and health care professionals should not worry on the infectivity of multiple system atrophy as there is no proper evidence to prove it. Also, the fact close contact with multiple system atrophy patients does not put anyone at risk of getting multiple system atrophy.

Conclusion

The exact etiology and pathogenesis of multiple system atrophy are not known. There are many proposed theories but none of them have been proved with enough evidence. There was an article released by the University of California – San Francesco in 2015 on experiments done in Prusiner’s lab in 2013. They believed that multiple system atrophy is a new type of prion disease as mice got neurodegeneration when they were exposed to brain tissue from dead multiple system atrophy patients. The brains of the infected mice had high levels of human alpha-synuclein and the infected mice brain tissue transmitted the disease to other mice as well. However, this article was reviewed by some professionals in 2018 and they concluded that there is not adequate evidence to prove about the infective nature of multiple system atrophy and it is not contagious as there is no proper evidence.(2)

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: May 24, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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