There have been dozens of cases of a mysterious, previously unknown brain disease that causes memory loss, hallucinations, and muscle atrophy striking Canadians. It can be deadly and doctors do not have a clue what causes the coniditon.
According to The Guardian, the neurological illness has doctors baffled and politicians demanding answers. In the province of New Brunswick alone, there have been 43 reported cases. Experts say the symptoms of the mystery disease mimic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare, fatal brain disorder, according to a leaked memo from the province’s public health agency. CJD is caused by abnormally folded proteins called prions.
‘We are collaborating with different national groups and experts; however, no clear cause has been identified at this time,” said the memo. While the symptoms detected in these unusual cases are similar to CJD, diagnostic screening showed that the cause was not triggered by human prions.
“We don’t have evidence to suggest it is a prion disease,” said Dr. Alier Marrero, the lead investigator in New Brunswick. According to The Guardian, while researchers do not know the cause of the mysterious illness, they are looking into environmental factors such as water sources, plants, and insects.
“We don’t know what’s causing it,” said Marrero. “At this time, we only have more patients appearing to have this syndrome.” The neurologist said patients begin to experience unexplained pains, spasms, and behavioral changes. But as time progresses, they develop cognitive decline, muscle wasting, and other weird symptoms such as the feeling of insects crawling all over them. While only one such case of the mystery disease was confirmed in 2015, there have been dozens more each year and the numbers are rising. Researchers believe five people have died from the yet unnamed syndrome.
According to Live Science, multiple research teams are now investigating the cause, which could be a brand new illness or a cluster of several disorders. Most cases have been identified in the Acadian Peninsula in northeast New Brunswick and near Moncton a city in New Brunswick, and the disease affects all age groups, says the CBC.
Dr. Neil Cashman, a neurologist at the University of British Columbia and a specialist in prion disease, says that Canadian doctors “have a problem on our hands,” according to the CBC.
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