Researchers in the United States say by the year 2050, globally more than 100 million people will be suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
According to a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the global prevalence of Alzheimer's disease will grow to more than 106 million by 2050 and 43 percent of those sufferers will need high-level care, equivalent to that of a nursing home.
In order to forecast the worldwide prevalence of Alzheimer's disease, the researchers created a multi-state mathematical computer model using United Nations population projections and other data on the incidence and mortality of Alzheimer's.
The new analysis found the number of people living with Alzheimer's disease could grow dramatically over the next 43 years.
The study's lead author, Dr. Ron Brookmeyer, a professor in Biostatistics and chair of the Master of Public Health Program at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, says a global epidemic of Alzheimer's disease is looming.
Dr. Brookmeyer predicts that by 2050, 1 in 85 persons worldwide will have Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers say the largest increase in the prevalence of Alzheimer's will occur in Asia, where 48 percent of the world's Alzheimer's cases currently reside; the number of cases is expected to grow in Asia from 12.65 million in 2006 to 62.85 million in 2050 when 59 percent of the world's Alzheimer's cases will live in Asia.
Brookmeyer believes however that even modest advances in preventing Alzheimer's disease or delaying its progression, could have a huge global public health impact.
Brookmeyer and his team say interventions that could delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by as little as one year would reduce prevalence of the disease by 12 million fewer cases in 2050.
A similar delay in both the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease would mean a smaller overall reduction of 9.2 million cases by 2050, because slower disease progression would mean more people surviving with early-stage disease symptoms.
However, nearly all of that decline would be attributable to decreases in those needing costly late-stage disease treatment in 2050.
Experts say the number of people affected by Alzheimer's disease is increasing at an alarming rate, and the added financial and personal costs will have a devastating effect on the world's economies, health-care systems and families.
The research was funded by Elan Pharmaceuticals and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and was presented on June 10th at the Second Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia held in Washington, D.C.
The study is published in the journal, Alzheimer's & Dementia.