Alzheimer’s A Prion Disease
Prions are the common thread between many neurological disorders that are killing people, wildlife and livestock around the world. Deadly prions (pronounced PREE-on) are contagious and unstoppable. They are known to migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with incredible efficiency. Prion strains are differentiated by the symptoms that they generate in the host and their potential to infect other mammals. When we connect the dots between all forms of prion disease, we see an explosive growth rate around the world now.
Prions are involved with neurodegenerative disorders in mammals, including humans. A Nobel-Prize-winning scientist claims that prions are behind many neurodegenerative disorders. He characterizes these diseases all as Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE).
“The (human) brain diseases caused by prions includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), and other disorders known as frontotemporal dementias,” said Nobel Laureate Stanley Prusiner.
Prusiner earned a Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1997 for discovering deadly prions. U.S. President Barack Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 for his vital work. Prions are not science fiction. They have the attention of the entire scientific community and world leaders alike. Prions can self-propagate through protein-altering chain reactions. The prion epidemic is already one of the greatest public health threats in history. World health officials admit that it will continue to escalate exponentially, but little is being done to contain it.
Prions are such a formidable threat that the U.S. government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2003, which included a provision to halt research on prions in all but two laboratories. It classified prions as select agents that pose an elevated risk to food, water and health systems.
“There has been a resurgence of this sort of thinking, because there is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins.”
In addition, prions are causing a deadly epidemic among deer, elk and moose in North America called Chronic Wasting disease (CWD). CWD, like Alzheimer’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disorder that consumes the brain. Thousands of animals have died and are still dying of the disease, while spreading the infection before and after death.
Since we have a global prion epidemic among people and regional ones among wildlife, it stands to reason that livestock also are impacted (in my opinion) because the species barrier is a myth. Unfortunately, we don’t comprehensively test our food supply for prions, so we don’t know to what extent prion disease is, or isn’t, in global herds that supply meat, dairy, and other products. As we discuss later, these deadly proteins have likely made it into our water supplies, too.
We usually associate the word protein with muscle growth and cell generation. Ironically, some proteins can reverse roles and kill brain cells. These renegade proteins cause damage to the nervous system and the entire body.
These corrupt proteins might even play a role in autism. A study in Canada is underway. We might even find that some proteins play roles in cancer development. The prion protein, in particular, behaves somewhat like cancer cells—they both corrupt their neighbors. They both spread and kill. A key difference is that prions keep going and going. They can survive outside of a body in a very harsh environment. They can lurk in soil or on a feed trough forever—waiting for their next victim. If we manage these protein predators based on what we do and don’t know, we can start managing the pathways and overall health risks to humans, livestock and wildlife.
Protein science is a fresh arena and we still have many more questions than answers. However, we know enough to connect some dots around proteins and the various threats that they pose. Humans and animals with prion disease are highly contagious. The prions are found throughout their body before and after death. The prions have been found in blood, urine, saliva, feces, tissue and milk of infected animals. Handling an infected animal or human is a risky proposition that requires extreme caution.
Only a decade ago, the idea that Alzheimer’s disease might be transmissible between people would have been laughed away. But scientists have now shown that tissues can transmit symptoms of the disease between animals. A new study published in the journal Nature raises additional concern about the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease between people.
“This is the first evidence of real-world transmission of amyloid pathology,” says molecular neuroscientist John Hardy of University College London (UCL). “It is potentially concerning.”
Ironically, most of these protein-based diseases exploded in the late 1900s. Have we created “Pandora’s Lunchbox” with our foolish food production and sewage disposal practices? Once released, prions are impossible to contain again. Learn more about the prion contagion in our new eBook. Simple steps can save lives.