According to Canadian health officials, more than 40 people have been affected by a mysterious brain disease in the province of New Brunswick, in the east of the country. Victims of the potentially new neurological condition report behavioral changes, unexplained pain and hallucinations.
According to Dr. Jennifer Russell, medical director of health for the Canadian province, this is “most likely a new disease”. During an interview on March 18, public health officials explained that there are at least 43 cases of this mysterious neurological condition under investigation at the scene, 35 of which have already been confirmed and eight others are still suspected.
What are the symptoms of the disease discovered in Canada?
According to medical reports, people affected by the mysterious disease have a number of neurological symptoms, such as behavioral changes, sleep disorders, unexplained pain, hallucinations, coordination problems and muscle pain. According to Dr. Russell, the symptoms have some similarities to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). This is a rare and fatal brain disease caused by prions – particles of proteins that act as infectious agents and that are often neurodegenerative.
In medicine, researchers know that some diseases caused by prions can be contracted by consuming the brain tissue of an infected individual or animal, for example. Some reports even point to unusual cases of people who contracted the disease after eating infected tissue.
However, CJD and other diseases caused by prions were ruled out by the first laboratory tests. Thus, the idea is that this is a completely new disease or an unknown variant of the diseases caused by prions. This potentially means that it is a new variant of prion disease or perhaps a completely new disease.
“We still haven’t been able to find a causative agent, except that everything we’ve analyzed so far suggests that it is an environmental exposure of some kind that is acquired through food, water, air, professional or leisure activities”, explains neurologist Alier Marrero, a member of a hospital in Moncton and one of those responsible for the investigation, are investigating substances found in seafood and a neurotoxin produced by seaweed.
Who has been affected by neurological disease so far?
The mysterious neurological disease has already affected groups of different ages, including young people. In common, the cases are concentrated geographically in two points of the province: in the Acadian Peninsula, in the northeast portion of the region; and in the Moncton region, in the southeast. From this centralization, the researchers think that the cause of the condition is related to some product consumed locally.
So far, no other case has been found outside the province, local officials speculate. However, suspicions of the disease had been found for years in the province, but the information did not gain prominence. The first case of this condition may have been identified in 2015, but the numbers have increased considerably in recent years. In 2019, 11 alleged cases were reported and, in 2020, another 24 reports were made about the new neurological condition. Now there are more than 35, according to local authorities.