Neurodegenerative disease is the fastest-growing cause of death in the world. Because of the Alzheimer’s disease epidemic alone, it will soon be the leading cause of death.
The epidemiology has indicated that Alzheimer’s is a transmissible disease. A new study confirms that millions of those with the disease are infectious. Talk about inconvenient truth. Unfortunately, misinformation and mismanagement are fueling a public health disaster.
Alzheimer’s disease is defined by toxic protein aggregations in the brain known as amyloid plaques and tau tangles. Attempts to treat the disease by clearing out these proteins have been unsuccessful. The new evidence that active Aß and tau prions could be driving the disease could lead researchers to new therapies.
“I believe this shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that amyloid beta and tau are both prions, and that Alzheimer’s disease is a double-prion disorder in which these two rogue proteins together destroy the brain,” said Stanley Prusiner, MD, the study’s senior author and director of the UCSF Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases, part of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “The fact that prion levels also appear linked to patient longevity should change how we think about the way forward for developing treatments for the disease. We need a sea change in Alzheimer’s disease research, and that is what this paper does. This paper might catalyze a major change in AD research.”
The Problem With Prions
Prions are rogue versions of a protein that can spread like an infection by converting normal proteins into pathological ones. Prions cause fatal neurodegenerative disease in humans and other mammals by converting the cellular version of prion protein into a toxic form that erodes the brain and body. Prion disease often is described as a wasting disease that causes a loss of body mass and brain mass.
Prions invade the entire body, but they do their damage in the brain. Prions are in the bodily fluids and cell tissue of victims, including blood, saliva, mucus, urine and feces. Common household items become biohazards, including utensils and dishes. A cough or sneeze sends prions into the air. Prions are a real-world version of Pandora’s Box. Prions are unstoppable. Prion disease is always fatal. This is an extremely important issue that demands the truth from government and industry–especially the medical world.
Prions migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency. Containing prions and preventing their spread is the key to avoiding a public health disaster. Unfortunately, the floodgates have been wide open for years.
Prion disease also is known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Prusiner claims that all forms of TSE are caused by infectious prions. TSE is a spectrum disease that varies in severity and symptoms. The diagnosis depends on which region of the brain is impacted first and by what prion mutation. Few cases are identical in terms of symptoms and diagnoses.
In humans, the prion spectrum includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)–the most aggressive version. The difference between these diseases is very slight and often indistinguishable to neurologists. In reality, millions of people have CJD, which is the most aggressive form of prion disease among humans. CJD has not been declared a reportable disease across most nations. It’s time to manage the entire prion spectrum much more responsibly.
Prions are such a formidable threat that the U.S. government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, which included a provision to halt research on prions in all but two laboratories.
The U.S. government initially classified prions as select agents that pose an extreme risk to food, water and health systems. Thanks to some midnight maneuvers, prions are no longer regulated at all in the U.S. and most other nations. It is bioterrorism of the highest order.
The original prion protein was identified by Prusiner in the 1980s as the cause of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, which spread through negligent production practices. This was the first time a disease had been shown to infect people not by an infestation of an organism such as a bacterium or a virus, but through an infectious protein, and Prusiner received a Nobel Prize for that discovery in 1997. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. Important reforms to policies to protect public health, however, have been elusive.
Prusiner and colleagues have long suspected that one prion mutation was not the only protein capable of acting as a self-propagating pathogen, and that distinct types of prion could be responsible for other neurodegenerative diseases caused by the progressive toxic buildup of deadly proteins. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is at least partially defined by Aß plaques and tau tangles that spread destruction through the brain.
However, there are now likely thousands, if not millions, of prion mutations unleashed in the environment. These prions are contributing to both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease through many pathways. These prions also are infecting wildlife and livestock, not to mention our water supplies. Mammals are recycling prion disease back and forth through air, food and water supplies.
Alzheimer’s disease alone is taking the lives of 50-100 million people around the world now. Millions will die of the disease this year, while many millions more will be diagnosed, misdiagnosed and undiagnosed. The epidemic is more severe in some countries than others. Supposedly, no one knows the scope of the problem. The evidence being swept under the rug and the global misinformation campaign suggest otherwise.
Despite millions of deaths, experts suggest that the prevalence of the disease will quadruple by 2050, if not sooner. Unfortunately, there is a growing stack of evidence that Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other brain diseases are transmissible. Deadly, self-replicating proteins appear to be one of the common threads. Similar proteins are associated with the childhood cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Ironically, abnormal proteins also are associated with autism, which has been spiking on a similar trajectory to the global prion epidemic.
Read The Full Story About Alzheimer’s and Prion Disease.