Senior citizen diagnosed with ‘incurable’ brain disorder

The disease is a fatal brain disorder that usually develops in old age.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai | Updated: November 11, 2014 11:14:49 am

Known to affect only one in a million across the globe in a year, the city recorded a case of Jakob disease, with a Vikhroli resident admitted to Jaslok Hospital after being diagnosed.

The disease, also called Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD), is a fatal brain disorder that usually develops in old age and leads to death within a year in over 90 per cent cases.

Murlidhar Ahire (70), a retired employee of Air India, is currently admitted in the acute isolation facility at Jaslok Hospital, after he was shifted from Mulund’s Fortis Hospital owing to lack of an isolation facility. The disease was diagnosed as a case of CJD at Fortis Hospital from where Ahire was transferred to Jaslok over a week ago.

According to his family, Ahire’s health declined in a matter of seven days. He first started becoming forgetful and experienced difficulty in balancing himself while walking. “His symptoms came one-and-a-half months ago. Within days, his condition deteriorated and he was bed-ridden. His eyes turned sore and his body became stiff,” said Tushar Ahire, his younger son.

Dementia, body stiffness, behavioural changes, irritability, difficulty in walking properly, blindness and coma are reported as symptoms in extreme cases.

Dr Om Srivastava, head of the infectious department at Jaslok Hospital, said that the disease can be hereditary, spread through infected person or can occur without any known cause. “In Ahire’s case, the reason for the disease is not known. We can now only provide him supportive treatment as there is no known cure for CJD. He has been admitted in the isolation facility and all nurses take the required precautions while entering the room as the disease is infectious,” said Srivastava.

At present, no family member is allowed inside the isolation facility where he is admitted.

“He was fine nearly two months ago. Now, he cannot speak and does not recognise us. It is difficult to comprehend this so soon,” Bhavik Ahire, the elder son, said.

Following the diagnosis, Ahire also reportedly expressed his wish to end his life. The family and doctors, however, are clueless as to how to react to his wish. “Euthanasia is banned and we cannot do anything about it,” Srivastava said.

According to Tushar, a medication called Pentosan Polysulfate (PPS) was used in northern Ireland for treating CJD. “We will explore options abroad to see if there is any chance to cure him,” he said.

CJD in India
According to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, the first case of CJD was reported in 1965. The CJD registry of NIMHANS reports 85 cases till September 2005. Experts claim the cases are however under-reported due to absence of diagnostic facilities.

Creutzfeldt Jakob disease is a rare and fatal neuro-degenerative disorder that affects the brain. It is infectious and can spread through fluids from the brain and spine.  There is no known treatment to cure the disease. People suffering from it often die within a year of contraction as the disease rapidly progresses in the body.

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