17 April 2008

"New" Nerve Disease?

Workers who remove brains from slaughtered pigs have apparently contracted a new nerve disease.

They said the illness is a new disorder that causes a range of symptoms, from inflammation of the spinal cord to mild weakness, fatigue, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.

It sounds very much like an old nerve disease.  The symptoms are different, but they should be looking very strongly at whether prions have anything to do with this new disease.  That seems much more likely than the theory advanced in the article.

Lachance said it is possible that bits of pig brain stimulated an immune response in the bodies of the workers, causing their immune systems to improperly attack their own nerve tissue.

It's possible the pigs were flying before they were slaughtered I guess.  This could very possibly become the new "Mad Cow" disease if they don't get their act together.

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 10:57:57 | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 I wondered the same thing when I read that, Stash.  Those prions are mischievous little things...

Posted by: sillyblindharper at 17 April 2008@15:09:00 (5+XEL)

2 I agree it sounds like CJD but I think they consider any prion disease new if it comes from a different host.  

Posted by: DRJ at 18 April 2008@15:01:47 (wE7Og)

3 I'm not skeptical that it could be a newly-discovered disease, just the idea that it's an immune- or auto-immune response to exposure.  That's essentially calling it an allergic reaction and seems unlikely given the circumstances described in the article.

The strategy of calling it an immune response is that you avoid admitting this could be similar to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow Disease) and triggering boycotts of your product.  That keeps your profits coming at the expense of risking the health, and possibly the lives, of anyone unaware of the risk.

Prions are nasty things, especially because many of them remain viable even after standard sterilizing techniques (including autoclaving).  We don't understand nearly enough about them to risk ignoring them in something like this (given their proclivity for infecting tissues of the nervous system).
spongiform encephalopathy

Posted by: Stashiu3 at 18 April 2008@17:50:36 (Q5ggV)

4 But I think the "new" conventional wisdom is that these are immunological disorders with a genetic trigger or risk factor.

Posted by: DRJ at 20 April 2008@02:30:00 (wE7Og)

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