Camels Contracting Prion Disease

Few Mammals Immune To Transmissible Brain Disease

Italian and Algerian researchers released new evidence of prion disease in three dromedary camels found in an Algerian slaughterhouse, according to a new study in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The discovery, now being called camel prion disease (CPD), has raised more questions than answers about this deadly illness characterized by misfolded brain proteins.

Alzheimer's disease and prion disease

“These camels are quite intriguing,” prion expert Valerie Sim, MD, associate professor at the University of Alberta, told CIDRAP News. “If we know anything about prions it’s that they can they can cross species; it’s not easy to do, but they can. So it’s very concerning if you have any infected animals in the food supply chain.”

Sim was not involved in the new study.

In prion disease, the normal shape of a protein is contorted pr folded, which triggers a domino-like effect in neighboring proteins, leading to fatal and severe neurodegenerative disease. Prion diseases can affect both humans and animals, and though inter-species transmission is rare, it can happen, as it did most famously during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow epidemic, which started in the late 1980s in the United Kingdom.

In both humans and animals, the diseases can happen spontaneously, or they can be inherited from a genetic mutation or, rarely, transmitted when a person eats the meat of an infected animal. The last category, infectious prion disease, is the most concerning for researchers working on the human-animal interface (human sewage is the largest prion pathway in the world–which exposes land and sea mammals to prion disease).

land application sewage sludge

The prion threat to all mammals

“Is there a clear exposure risk in camels? That’s what’s needed to be understood,” said Sim. She said that the presence of prions in the camels’ lymph tissues suggests the disease was acquired and not spontaneous, likely from something the animal was digesting.

In the Emerging Infectious Diseases study, researchers describe CPD in three symptomatic camels from a Saharan population in southeastern Algeria, where the animals were brought for slaughter to the Ouargla abattoir in 2015 and 2016. Dromedary camels are commonly slaughtered and consumed in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East.

Breeders bringing the camels to slaughter noted several neurologic symptoms from 2010 to 2015 in about 3 percent of their animals, including “weight loss; behavioral abnormalities; and neurologic signs, such as tremors, aggressiveness, hyperreactivity, typical down and upward movements of the head, hesitant and uncertain gait, ataxia of the hind limbs, occasional falls, and difficulty getting up.”

Anecdotal evidence collected from employees at the slaughterhouse suggests that these symptoms have been present since the 1980s.

The researchers, from Algeria and Rome, took brain samples as well as samples from the cervical, prescapular, and lumbar aortic lymph nodes from three symptomatic and one healthy camel. They confirmed the diagnosis by the presence of disease-specific prion protein in brain tissues from the symptomatic animals. The authors said the presence of prions in the lymph nodes suggests infection, but the disease remains a mystery.

Disease origin unknown?

“The origin of CPD is unknown. It might be a disease unique to dromedaries or a malady deriving from transmission of a prion disease from another species,” the authors concluded. They noted, however, that BSE from imported meat in the late 1980s cannot be ruled out. The likely source is human sewage, which can infect food, water and air (posing a massive public health threat around the globe).

Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, said the study was noteworthy especially as it comes on the heels of new information from Canadian researchers that showed that chronic wasting disease—another prion disease—in deer and their relatives can be transmitted to non-human primates fed meat from infected animals.

“The whole issue of prions and meat consumption is a new and much more serious topic we need to look at,” Osterholm said. “Even though there’s no evidence that there is transmission [from camels], the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Unfortunately, meat consumption is only one of many pathways for prions to infect humans and other mammals. Neurological disease is now the fastest-growing cause of death around the world. As the human population gets sicker with neurodegenerative disease, prion pathways multiply and intensify. Prions discharged from humans are the most deadly and aggressive form of prions, which migrate, multiply and mutate as they move up the food chain.

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise.

Prion Disease Continues To Threaten Food Supply

Mad Cow Disease Spreading With Infectious Waste

Mad cow disease has again raised its ugly head in the United States. Thanks to misinformation and mismanagement by government, the problem will persist.

Government and industry representatives announced yesterday that an 11-year-old beef cow in Alabama tested positive for prion disease. Also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the disease is always fatal and a major concern for producers and consumers alike.

It was detected after the cow showed clinical signs of sickness at an Alabama livestock market. This animal never entered slaughter channels and at no time presented a risk to the food supply, or to human health in the United States, the U.S.D.A. said. Unfortunately, this producer did attempt to sell a very sick animal to an unsuspecting buyer. He obviously has a farm or ranch that is contaminated. The sick animal added to the contamination on the farm with its urine, feces and saliva. It also infected the livestock auction site. Sun and oxygen do not deplete prions. In fact, they can mutate and multiply in some soil and migrate away via the wind and water runoff.

Alzheimer's disease and prion disease

The Problem With Prions

Each prion victim is a symptom of a much bigger threat to food safety, water quality and public health. Prion disease has been detected in livestock around the world.

Of the five confirmed occurrences of BSE in cattle in the United States, this is the second in Alabama., but the vast majority of beef and dairy cattle are not tested thanks to intense lobbying from cattle producers and food companies.

Unfortunately, livestock producers, farmers and other land owners are being duped into a false sense of security and many are unwittingly participating in high-risk production practices that expose livestock, wildlife and people to deadly prions. To purge the threat of prion disease from the food supply, it’s time to manage prion pathways like we handle all biohazards. It’s time for government agencies to stop spreading misinformation and stop promoting risky production practices, including the dumping of infectious waste on farms, ranches, golf courses, parks and playgrounds. Cities are now dumping their highly infectious sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, on open land across the U.S.—especially in rural areas. It’s bioterrorism. It’s fueling the spike in Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease. It’s also fueling cancer, endocrine disruption and more.

A Spectrum Disease Among Mammals

Neurodegenerative disease, including prion disease, is the fastest-growing cause of death in the world. Misinformation and mismanagement are fueling the epidemic among people and wildlife. Unfortunately, we have no idea how pervasive the disease is among livestock because 99.9 percent of the animals are not tested, even though many are being exposed to prion contamination on a daily basis. Infected animals are contagious long before they start to stumble, drool and fall down. Therefore, our food and water supplies are at risk.

The technical term for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” In addition to mad cow disease, TSE includes scrapie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, moose and reindeer. TSE has been found in many mammals, including dolphins, cats, mink and elephants. It’s likely killing whales and other sea mammals, since most mammals appear to be vulnerable to deadly prions.

In humans, TSEs are known as Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and kuru. There is little, if any, difference because prion disease is a spectrum disease that’s only distinguished by the severity of symptoms. Diagnoses are usually a shot in the dark based only on visible symptoms.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions–a deadly and unstoppable form of protein that migrates, mutates, multiplies and kills with unparalleled efficiency.

President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion (PREE-on) disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence.

The Misinformation

Despite Dr. Prusiner’s crowning achievement, he has remained too silent on policies and practices that are contributing to the spread of prions in our daily lives. Government and industry spokesmen have stepped forward to cast smoke and mirrors over productive conversations about reforms to protect public health. Despite attempts to gag and censor Prusiner and other prion scientists, they have painted the landscape of the problem. It’s up to critical thinkers to connect the dots and demand change.

beef tongue recalled over mad cow risk

For example, Jimmy Holliman, a spokesperson for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in Denver went on record to say that BSE is not contagious. That’s the equivalent of saying that an infectious disease is not infectious. The comment demonstrates incompetence, negligence or contempt.

“USDA’s ongoing BSE surveillance program has tested more than one million cattle since the program began,” Holliman said. “The incidence of BSE in the United States is extremely low, and will remain so.”

That’s quite an admission. It only takes one infected animal to create a perpetual prion pathway that will infect live animals, carcasses at the slaughterhouse, meat markets and kitchens.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I worked for the National Cattlemen’s Association, the predecessor of Holliman’s organization, between 1988 and 1992. My father worked in the meat industry all of his life. I grew up in rural Colorado with many beef and dairy producers. I’m not an enemy of the beef industry. I’m trying to lead them out of this mess before government lies explode in their face.

Prion disease is a complex topic. Even the world’s top scientists don’t fully understand the dynamics, yet. All that we need to know is that prions + pathways = victims:

  1. Prions: Impossible to neutralize completely in laboratory or surgical setting. Even more impossible to halt in the open-air experiments that are taking place all around us.
  2. Pathways: The key to prion management is pathway management. The bodily fluids, feces and cell tissue of prion victims are highly infectious. Prion victims (especially people) contaminate the world around them. Although prions can migrate via many pathways, some of the largest and most obvious threats are being ignored. We examine the major pathways below.
  3. Victims: If we know that we have prions and pathways, there will be victims—an endless supply of victims will spawn new mutations and new pathways.

First of all, prion disease is prion disease. There are now thousands of mutations of prions. No two cases of prion disease are identical because some prions are more aggressive and pervasive than others. It also depends on which region of the brain is impacted first.

The best way to refer to this spectrum of maladies is just “prion disease.” It makes it much easier to keep score and cut through the misinformation. There is no evidence of a species barrier, but some species appear to be more resistant than others. Some people are more resistant to prions than others.

Since prions migrate, mutate and multiply, any official attempt to characterize prion disease as a non-event is reckless, incompetent and fraudulent. There are now thousands of prion mutations–not just two or three. The mutations are becoming more aggressive and more lethal every day as they spread throughout our world (naturally and unnaturally). Victims are getting younger and younger.

People and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them with the prions in their urine, feces, blood, mucus and saliva. It spreads throughout the entire body. Each victim becomes an incubator and a distributor of the Pandora-like pathogen.

Not only are homes and hospitals exposed to the prion pathogen, so are entire sewage treatment systems and their by-products (wastewater reclamation and sewage sludge). The human prion is resistant to both heat and chemicals. It’s reported that prions released from people are up to a hundred thousand times more difficult to deactivate than prions from most animals. Sewage from hospitals, nursing homes, slaughterhouses, morgues, mortuaries, veterinarians and other high-risk places enters the same sewage system. Wastewater treatment plants can’t detect or neutralize deadly prions.

Prion Mismanagement

Industry spokesmen are again trying to calm the minds and markets around the world. The official story is that the animal had an “atypical” form of the disease, which is one of many red flags regarding the misinformation and mismanagement of prion disease.

As stated earlier, prions can migrate via many pathways. Unfortunately for us all, some of the largest and most obvious prion threats are being ignored. In fact, I argue that humans, wildlife and livestock are exchanging prions back and forth now via food, water and air. The primary pathway is infectious waste from humans that is dumped on open spaces (more detail ahead).

land application sewage sludge

TSE among humans is much more prevalent than government and industry admit. However, just like the example with cattle above, it only takes one prion victim to spread the contamination far and wide. Unfortunately, we have had millions of people in the U.S. alone who have TSE or have died of it over the past century.

As stated earlier, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Alzheimer’s disease are both part of the prion spectrum. Without dispute, CJD is highly infectious and extremely aggressive. It’s much more prevalent than reported. In fact, it’s now killing teenagers. 

“Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease behaves like Alzheimer’s disease on steroids,” said Dr. Jennifer Majersik, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Utah.

According to neuroscientists Dr. Laura Manuelidis, at least 25 percent of those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease actually have CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. Millions of cases of deadly CJD are being misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. None of these patients are being quarantined, which means that they are putting family, caregivers and entire communities at risk. It appears that the milder version, Alzheimer’s disease, is equally infectious.

Alzheimer's disease epidemic

Read The Full Story About Mad Cow Disease. The Vectors Of Transmission Are Numerous.

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform gary@crossbow1.com.