Two Vietnamese men have been hospitalized with symptoms of the rare degenerative brain disorder known as Creutzfeldt – Jakob but doctors lack equipment to settle on a decisive diagnosis.
The HCMC Medical University Hospital received the first patient on August 20 -- a 44-year-old from Binh Phuoc Province, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
The second was an 86-year-old Ho Chi Minh City local who was admitted to the 115 People’s Hospital on September 6.
Both were discharged after being treated for their symptoms which haven't been precisely identified.
Even if doctors could be sure they suffer from CJD, which is a rare disease affecting about one in every million worldwide, no treatment is available.
Doctor Vo Don of the 115 hospital and his colleague Tran Ngoc Tai from the other said the patients suffered rapidly progressive dementia and experienced problems moving or speaking.
The 86-year-old patient, only identified as P.V.L., could only lie still when he was admitted.
Family members said he started to forget things around two years ago and his memory grew progressively worse.
More than a month after he was admitted, his condition rapidly deteriorated. He had problems walking around and holding things in his hands.
L.B.H., the other patient, initially sought treatment at a Binh Phuoc hospital where doctors were baffled by the symptoms.
He went to two other hospitals in the city where doctors could not venture a diagnosis.
By the time he arrived at the University hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, he could hardly speak or raise his legs and arms.
Tests have been performed on the patients to rule out other treatable forms of dementia such as encephalitis or meningitis.
MRI scans showed their brains' electrical patterns have become irregular.
Doctors say the results are typical of the disease, which was once considered a human form of mad cow disease.
But the doctors say they need to conduct tests on samples of a brain protein called prion to decide for sure, and hospitals in Vietnam aren't equipped for that.
Prion proteins occur in both a normal form and an infectious form, which causes the disease.
The prions cause harm when they change into the infectious form and clump together, leading to neuron loss and other brain damage.
Tai said the disease usually occurs at people from between 55 to 60 years of age.
Victims of the disease forget what they've just said, then the way home and eventually cannot recognize their own children.
Gradually, they lapse into temper tantrums, behavioral disorders and mobility problems including seizures.
In less common cases among patients between 25 and 30, the victims suffer mobility before mental problems.
They too end up in a vegetative state, the doctor said.
Depending on nursing conditions, patients can survive for several months or several years and they usually die of complications such as ulceration and bacterial infections associated with lying still for long periods of time.
Tai said the cause of the disease is not known in around 85 percent of patients.
Another 10-15 percent inherit the disease and less than 1 percent are infected by other patients’ tissues or tainted medical equipment.
His hospital has seen four patients whom they believe suffer the disease in the past seven years..
Don meanwhile said his 115 hospital receives one to two suspected cases a year.