On World Alzheimers Day, Remembering The First Patient To Be Diagnosed With The Disease

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On World Alzheimer's Day, Remembering The First Patient To Be Diagnosed With The Disease

Auguste Deter started falling ill in 1901 when she was 50. During the end of the same year, she was admitted to a mental hospital where she spend rest of her life. She died on April 8, 1906 at the age of 55.

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Auguste Deter was born and brought up in Cassell Germany into a working-class family on May 16, 1850. She was well-educated despite her family belonging to a poor background. Auguste started falling ill in 1901 when she was 50. During the end of the same year, she was admitted to a mental hospital where she spend the rest of her life. She died on April 8, 1906, at the age of 55, just over a month before her 56th birthday.

Inception Of The Disease

According to Wikipedia, Auguste experienced a rapid escalation in memory loss and started showing signs of dementia like memory loss, delusions, and even temporary vegetative states in her late 30's. Her behaviour started to go out of control. She even accused her husband Carl of being adulterous and used to feel jealous. Auguste starting becoming inattentive, purposely hit objects and lost the ability to cook. Eventually, the disease took its worst shape when she developed 'insomnia'. She would drag sheets outside her house and scream non-stop at night. She started to become paranoid over strangers as she thought someone will kill her.

After the doctor's recommendation, her husband admitted her to a mental hospital called in Frankfurt, Germany on November 25, 1901. She was examined by Dr Alois Alzheimer there.

At the institute, Dr Alzheimer started asking her questions and later repeat to see if she remembered it. For example, he would ask her to write her name. She tried to, but would forget the rest and repeat, "Ich habe mich verloren", which means "I have lost myself."

Treatment And Death

With each passing year, the woman become entirely demented and would mutter to herself. Eventually, she died on April 8, 1906. After her death, her case was re-examined 100 years later where scientists found a genetic cause for her disease. According to the study published in The Lancet Neurology, a mutation in the PSEN1 gene was found, which changes the gamma-secretase function and is a known cause of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Dr Alzheimer had said that the patient had lost sense of time or place. She could hardly remember anything about her life and would come up with answers that had nothing to do with the question. She had mood-swings that would rapidly change from anxiety, mistrust and whininess. They could not let her wander around the wards because she would accost other patients who would then assault her.

In 1902, Dr Alzheimer got transferred to Munich but would frequently inquire about Auguste's condition through phone calls. On April 9, 1906, he received a call from Frankfurt that Auguste Deter had passed away. He requested the authorities to send her brain and medical records to him for study.

Her death was the result of sepsis caused by an infected bedsore. With the help of Italian physicians, Gaetano Perusini and Francesco Bonfiglio they examined her brain to discover senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. These would be the hallmark of Alzheimer's Disease as scientists know it in current times. Auguste would have been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease if seen by present-day doctors.

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Contributors Suggest Correction
Writer : Tashafi Nazir
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Editor : Madhusree Goswami
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Creatives : Tashafi Nazir

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