London: A jab that could halt Alzheimer`s in its earliest stages is being tested on British patients.
Some 50 men and women with mild memory problems will be given monthly injections of a drug described as their best chance of warding off the disease, Daily Mail reported Saturday.
It is hoped that the drug, also being tested in 15 countries, would be even more effective if it is given earlier.
The first jabs have just been given and there is still time for volunteers to join the trial. It could be in widespread use in five years.
Unlike other drugs, which are given once dementia has taken hold, the new medication is designed to set to work when symptoms are confined to slight memory lapses, the Mail said.
The drug, called gantenerumab, is not expected to be a cure, but slowing the development of dementia would allow people to live normally for longer, delaying the time when they have to give up work and perhaps go into care.
Experts say this would be "life-changing", and estimate that delaying the onset of Alzheimer`s by five years could halve the number who die with the condition, currently a third of over-65s.
Richard Perry, the Alzheimer`s expert leading one of the British trials, said: "There is no guarantee but this is the best chance of a medication that is going to affect the underlying condition at the earliest stage."
Current drugs tackle the symptoms of Alzheimer`s rather than the underlying damage, and are given once it has taken hold. They do not work for everyone and the effects wear off after time.
It contains an antibody that homes in on amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs the brain in Alzheimer`s, and speeds up its clearance from the body.
In small-scale early trials on men and women who already had Alzheimer`s, it cut the amount of amyloid in the brain by up to a third in just six months, the newspaper said quoting the journal Archives of Neurology.