Canada Reports Cluster of Mysterious Brain Disease

Mysterious brain disease reported in Canada
Pixel-shot/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Officials in New Brunswick, Canada have reported more than 40 cases of a mysterious brain disease.
  • The symptoms of the neurological condition are similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
  • Scientists are currently investigating the disease’s link to environmental toxins.

On 5th March, the chief medical officer of New Brunswick province sent a memo to health officials announcing a cluster of mysterious cases in the region. The memo, which was recently leaked to the public, mentioned 43 cases of a mysterious brain disease of unknown origin. According to the memo, the first case was discovered in 2015. Later on, in 2019, officials discovered 11 additional cases. Last year 24 more cases came forward and this year so far 6 further cases have been discovered. Moreover, five people have died from the neurological condition.

Dr. Jennifer Russel, the province’s chief medical officer, had sent out the memo to alert physicians of the condition and help identify the symptoms early on. However, it has led to a state of panic among the residents. Moreover, multiple politicians are criticizing the public health agency for keeping the news to themselves for so long.

So why are New Brunswickers only hearing about this cluster now? It’s extraordinary to me that Public Health has been so quiet on this … they haven’t done anything to keep us informed.

Green Party Leader David Coon 

Mysterious Brain Disease in Canada Resembles Prion Disease

According to the memo, 35 of the 43 cases are from the Acadian Peninsula in the northeast corner of the province. Whereas the rest are from the Moncton region in the southeast side. However, the Public Health department refuses to disclose any more information about the specific location of the cases.

The mysterious brain disease seems to affect people of all age groups. The disease usually progresses in 18 to 36 months. The symptoms include behavioral changes, pain, hallucinations, coordination problems, sleep disturbances, and formication (a sensation of insects crawling under the skin). Although the symptoms are similar to those of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), doctors have ruled it out as a possibility. Thus, making diagnosing the disease a real challenge.

There is no evidence, not a hint — even in the three autopsies that have been performed — of human prion disease. That came as a surprise to me, frankly.

Dr. Neil Cashman, professor at the University of British Columbia, case investigator

CJD is a rare, but fatal, prion disease that results from a buildup of misfolded proteins in the brain. This highly progressive brain disease is one of the causes of dementia in older adults. Although 85% of cases occur spontaneously, some can occur due to a genetic mutation. There have also been reports of people contracting the disease after eating infected squirrel brains.

Investigation Underway

Multiple scientists are currently investigating the cases and searching for a cause behind the disease. Some hypothesize that it is a new variant of a prion disease, while some predict it is occurring because of environmental toxins. Moreover, since all cases are from within regions in the province, environmental toxins are a likely possibility.

We have not yet been able to come up with a causative agent, except that everything that we have analyzed so far suggests this is an environmental exposure of some kind that is acquired through food, water, air, professional activities, or leisure activities.

Dr. Alier Marrero, neurologist at Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton, case investigator

It is still too early to identify what is causing the mysterious brain disease in Canada. Moreover, health officials do not believe that the cases pose a risk to the population.


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