Mad Cow Disease Agent Can Infect Via the Air

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posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 10:47 AM

Mad Cow Disease Agent Can Infect Via the Air

As if it weren't bad enough that deadly prions can survive boiling and radiation, now comes word that aerosolized forms of the pathogen can enter the nose and find their way to the brain, with fatal consequences.

Prions, you may recall, were the reason you avoided beef in Europe in the 1990s. They triggered the infamous mad cow disease epidemic in the U.K., which spread to the rest of Europe and other parts of the world.
(visit the link for the full news article)

Related News Links:

Related Discussion Threads:
SCI/TECH: Mad Cow Madness
NEWS: "Mad Cow-like" Prions Possible in Sheep Milk?
POLITICS: Did Chemical and Drug Industries Create Mad Cow?
'Lifeless' Prion Proteins Are 'Capable of Evolution'

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 10:47 AM
Before everyone panics, I do NOT think this is as bad as it sounds. But I don't buy the "Move along, nothing to see here" tone of the news article either. And it's no big surprise to me that prion diseases are airborne. We live in a mysteriously inter-connected world.

Aguzzi has been researching Mad Cow disease and prions for decades. His main goal here is to warn other researchers, and to highlight the unrecognized risks to laboratory personnel and people working in the meat processing industry.

In summary, our results establish aerosols as a surprisingly efficient modality of prion transmission. This novel pathway of prion transmission is not only conceptually relevant for the field of prion research, but also highlights a hitherto unappreciated risk factor for laboratory personnel and personnel of the meat processing industry. In the light of these findings, it may be appropriate to revise current prion-related biosafety guidelines and health standards in diagnostic and scientific laboratories being potentially confronted with prion infected materials. While we did not investigate whether production of prion aerosols in nature suffices to cause horizontal prion transmission, the finding of prions in biological fluids such as saliva, urine and blood suggests that it may be worth testing this possibility in future studies.

This previously unappreciated risk for airborne prion transmission may warrant re-thinking on prion biosafety guidelines in research and diagnostic laboratories.

Also of note:

* Longer exposures to prion-containing aerosols are strongly correlated with shortened incubation periods; with inhalation, exposure time is more important than exposure level - in contrast to ingestion - when prion-contaminated foods are eaten, the amount or number of prions affects the speed and degree of disease development.

* Airborne prion infection is independent of the immune system - in contrast to ingestion - when prion-contaminated foods are eaten, the prions use the immune system to spread in the body.

Although aerial transmission is common for many bacteria and viruses, it has not been thoroughly investigated for prion aerosols ... Our results establish that aerosolized prion-containing brain homogenates that aerosols are efficacious prion vectors.

Incubation time and attack rate after exposure to prion aerosols depended primarily on the exposure time, the PrPC expression level of recipients and, to a lesser degree, the prion titer of the materials used to generate prion aerosols in a standardized inhalation chamber.

Also see:

Obesity and Mad Cow Disease

Mad Cow-causing Prions Found in All Organs

Beyond Bird Flu: The Perfect Microbial Storm
(visit the link for the full news article)

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 10:55 AM
Someone would have to be dremeling infected cows brains or using a chain saw in order to aerosol the blood.
None the less, prions are probably the most deadly "organism" known to man.
edit on 14-1-2011 by Violater1 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 10:58 AM
Not only is it the most deadly and persistent "organism" known, it is ubiquitous in the deer population over much of the US.

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 11:04 AM

Originally posted by Violater1
Someone would have to be ...using a chain saw in order to aerosol the blood.

What do you think happens in slaughter houses?

...Laboratories haven't worried about airborne prions either.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Prions are not just present in blood - there is NO reason to assume that prions need aerosol blood to go airborne.

None the less, prions are probably the most deadly "organism" known to man.

I happen to think they are the primary agents of evolution - and that we need to completely rethink our understanding of what "disease" really is.

edit on 14/1/11 by soficrow because: clarity

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 11:06 AM
My greatest concern for this is that they'll start using it as a bio-weapon. It wouldn't have a huge range, or be hugely effective, but it would be deeply troublesome if they aerialised it within, say, an air vent.

I wouldn't have even thought about that if the author hadn't said that this finding was particularly relevent to research into prions

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 12:24 PM

Originally posted by TheWill
My greatest concern for this is that they'll start using it as a bio-weapon.

I think we can safely speculate that it already has been.

And don't forget - the best bio-terror analysts say that the food industry's international mega-corporations are the best-positioned and most motivated to use bio-terrorism to mess with the food supply.

I wouldn't have even thought about that if the author hadn't said that this finding was particularly relevent to research into prions

Bush put prions on the "Special Agents" list to prevent open research AND open disclosure - long after the horse left the barn on this one.

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 11:23 PM

Originally posted by soficrow
...I happen to think they are the primary agents of evolution...

sorry friend, but i am having a very difficult time imagining a scenario where, at this late stage of evolution, prions can have anything but a destructive effect on living tissue.

your quote above literally stuns by brain into silence.

nevertheless, obtaining a clearer understanding of the pathways of protein folding is essential to the forward momentum of biotechnology.

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 11:32 PM
BIG reason I quit flesh over 10 years ago. Still the reality is that it cannot be cleaned from anything it comes in contact with.

Alzheimers disease has become almost pandemic among the elderly and when a person dies who has Alzheimers, the morgues are given directions and autopsies are forbidden as well, or so I have heard.

Just a few short years ago Alzheimers was reported in about 5,000 people int he US and now those numbers have risen to an astounding 6 Million and growing. Think about the misdiagnosis's and the 'dimentia' patients who really are strickend with the Prion disease as well.

The Beef industry is directly responsible, look no further.

Cattle mutilations probably fit in here in some way too.

Also, it is a NO BRAINER that prions in cattle poop dry and fly on the wind as small particles people breath into their lungs. There must be some vaccine or antidote to this but we will never know.

edit on 14-1-2011 by antar because: (no reason given)

posted on Jan, 14 2011 @ 11:39 PM
I think that Scientific American needs to check there facts. it was in the 80's. How do I know. i was stationed in England 82-85. I have been told that I can not give blood for 40 years due to the fact I lived in England for an extended period of time during the BSE outbreak. (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy or Mad Cow disease). The reason for the 40 years is that they still do not know how long you can have it before the symptoms show.

posted on Jan, 15 2011 @ 07:35 AM

Originally posted by tgidkp

Originally posted by soficrow
...I happen to think they are the primary agents of evolution...

sorry friend, but i am having a very difficult time imagining a scenario where, at this late stage of evolution, ...

...Why on earth would you assume we're at this late stage of evolution? All the contemporary evidence suggests that evolution is an ongoing process. ...Hubris anyone?

i am having a very difficult time imagining ... prions can have anything but a destructive effect on living tissue.

your quote above literally stuns by brain into silence.

Shake it out.

Here's a quick overview:

* The beneficial side of prions

* Redefining what it means to be a prion:

“We think that the fact that prions are sometimes beneficial and sometimes detrimental for the yeast is at the heart of their biology – that they present a sort of bet-hedging strategy, where in some circumstances it’s good to be in the prion state and in some cases it’s not,” says Whitehead Member and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Susan Lindquist.

* Beneficial Role of Prions in Brain Function:

...prions possess a hazardous status. Regardless of this depressing nature, a recent research describes certain essential positive responsibilities of prions in brain function. A persistent problem in the study of memory is how molecules in the brain can “remember” a memory for years, even a lifetime. How it is that our brain’s cells can permanently store information that we learn?

Researchers at the Stowers Institute of Medical Research reveals that prion like protein may participate in persistence of memory in eukaryotes. The research led by Kausik Si of Stowers Institute for Medical Research and Nobel laureate Eric Kandel suggest that prions may be the best solution to the problem. Prions marked the ability to assume two distinct conformational states – one is dominant and self perpetuating. Once a protein switches to prion state it has the ability to convert other non prion proteins to that state. Thus once engaged the prion state, it continues to be self-renewing and stable.

The study concludes that memory traces may depend on a fairly unique mechanism involving a prion-like protein known as CPEB. CPEB (cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein) was involved in memory formation in the sea slug Aplysia.

* Large Number Of New Prions Discovered: Scientists Redefining What It Means To Be A Prion

Special proteins known as prions, which are perhaps best known as the agents of mad cow and other neurodegenerative diseases, can also serve as an important source of beneficial variation in nature. Whitehead Institute researchers have quintupled the number of identifiable prion proteins in yeast and have further clarified the role prions play in the inheritance of both beneficial and detrimental traits.

…Prions in cells are known to switch back and forth between a clumping, infectious stage and a non-infectious stage. When yeast is stressed, this switching occurs at a higher rate, which may give the yeast a better chance to adapt to challenging conditions.

* An interesting blog on the topic: The beneficial prion, evolution and the origin of life

Are there any beneficial prions? It is thinkable, and in fact there is an example of it. In yeast, a prion has been identified which in certain circumstances is beneficial, see for example Prions act as stepping stones in evolution. The remarkable thing is that the effect can be passed on to the offspring.

…when it misfolds into a prion conformation, Sup35 gets sloppy, and the cell reads beyond the stop codons, translating genetic information that previously had been dormant. As a result, the cell's phenotype changes.

And here's where evolution comes in.

On those rare occasions when, due to a particular environment, the altered properties of the cell provide it with a survival advantage, the cell passes that trait on to its progeny. But when the daughter cells are mated and genetic reassortment takes place, they can subsequently pass along this same trait without the prion. That is, the trait becomes fixed in the cell's lineage and no longer depends on the prion state. "We don't know yet exactly how the daughter cells do this, but they do it quickly, often after a single mating," said Lindquist.

The prion thus appears to function as an evolutionary stepping stone, affording the population of cells a chance to survive in a new environment where they need a different phenotype until they can acquire the genetic changes that produce the same effect.

These new traits are genetically complex. When Sup35 misfolds into a prion form, it affects a number of genes in one fell swoop.

"This prion has a capacity to hide and release genetic information throughout the entire genome that can contribute to new traits in a complex way," explained Lindquist.

nevertheless, obtaining a clearer understanding of the pathways of protein folding is essential to the forward momentum of biotechnology.

And to understanding biotechnology's impact on natural evolutionary processes.

Take care.

posted on Jan, 15 2011 @ 03:58 PM
reply to post by soficrow

conformational changes in transcription factors? okay. i can buy that. you are on the lucky end of this argument for the reason that transcriptional regulation is an intensely complex subject at the bleeding edge of research.

i am always happy to be corrected, so thank you. good info.

posted on Jan, 15 2011 @ 05:09 PM
I was going to say something that has bothered me for a while... Think about all the dog food scares we have had in the past few years. I seriously think they put the tainted BSE waste into dog food. Dogs are getting tumors, arthritis, and other strange illnesses they have never had before. Then when we scoop out the food for them, we are inhaling the fumes and it is in all of our environments.

Where does it end?

posted on Jan, 15 2011 @ 08:59 PM
I was reading something a while ago that stated that BSE didn't exist prior to around 1936, when two scientists took scrapie and infected cattle with it. It was part of a bio weapons program, later shelved.

I often wonder if the outbreak in the UK was the result of a weapons program gone bad. It seemed to hit a lot of places suddenly, and they blamed feeding cattle to other cattle, but that didn't make sense; they'd already have to have the disease to spread it...

Related to dog food, I refuse to feed my cat cat food - who knows what the hell is in that stuff! I don't even want to handle the can it is in, so I'm certainly not prepared to let her eat it!

I doubt we will know the true cause of the outbreak in our lifetimes.

posted on Jan, 16 2011 @ 05:49 AM
reply to post by mirageofdeceit

On BSE/Scrapie.

The root of this in sheep and goats is genetic. The protein arises naturally from time to time - like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans. It was propogated when farmers started using (protein rich) bone meal to enhance the growth of cattle - they did not use specifically cattle bone-meal, which is how it got into the cattle population. Rapidly grown cattle were butchered, sold, and their bones - containing nerve fibres infested with the BSE prion - were ground up and fed to more cattle.

It's similar, although not quite the same because the cattle weren't given a choice, to the spread of CJD (the human version of the disease) in Papua New Guinea - mortuary feasts, eating your relatives out of respect for the dead, with, in some cases, the belief that eating their brain will give you their wisdom, really did put an element of their brain into yours - the prion, which then slowly tore your brain apart.

This help?

posted on Jan, 16 2011 @ 12:12 PM
reply to post by mirageofdeceit

A lot of research shows that modern industrial processes create prions as a byproduct, while Big Pharma likely creates prions on purpose to "target proteins," which often underlie disease processes.

posted on Jan, 16 2011 @ 12:31 PM
reply to post by tgidkp

Big of you.

Try tracking some of Lindquist's work, like this one from 2006:

Investigating protein conformation-based inheritance and disease in yeast.
Lindquist S, Krobitsch S, Li L, Sondheimer N.

Our work supports the hypothesis that a protein can serve as an element of genetic inheritance. This protein-only mechanism of inheritance is propagated in much the same way as hypothesized for the transmission of the protein-only infectious agent in the spongiform encephalopathies; hence these protein factors have been called yeast prions. Our work has focused on [PSI(+)], a dominant cytoplasmically inherited factor that alters translational fidelity. This change in translation is produced by a self-perpetuating change in the conformation of the translation-termination factor, Sup35. Most recently, we have determined that new elements of genetic inheritance can be created by deliberate genetic engineering, opening prospects for new methods of manipulating heredity. We have also uncovered evidence that other previously unknown elements of protein-based inheritance are encoded in the yeast genome. Finally, we have begun to use yeast as a model system for studying human protein folding diseases, such as Huntington's disease. Proteins responsible for some of these diseases have properties uncannily similar to those that produce protein-based mechanisms of inheritance.

PMID: 11260797

And check this out:

Prions are unusual proteinaceous infectious agents that are typically associated with a class of fatal degenerative diseases of the mammalian brain. However, the discovery of fungal prions, which are not associated with disease, suggests that we must now consider the effect of these factors on basic cellular physiology in a different light. Fungal prions are epigenetic determinants that can alter a range of cellular processes, including metabolism and gene expression pathways, and these changes can lead to a range of prion-associated phenotypes. The mechanistic similarities between prion propagation in mammals and fungi suggest that prions are not a biological anomaly but instead could be a newly appreciated and perhaps ubiquitous regulatory mechanism.

posted on Jan, 17 2011 @ 08:44 AM
The mainstream health media is picking up this story, even though it's one most would like to see buried.

Here's a quick pick from Cordis, "Study confirms prions transmissible by air."

Researchers have known for some time that prions are transmissible via contaminated surgical instruments, food, milk, saliva, faeces, urine, and blood transfusions, although the latter is a rare occurrence. However, information about whether prions can be transmitted through the air was lacking.

The scientists ...tested immunodeficient and immunocompetent mice to determine whether they were susceptible to airborne prions.

They placed the mice in special inhalation chambers and exposed them to prion-containing aerosols, which resulted in disease. They found that just 1 minute of exposure to aerosols was enough to trigger disease in each subject. Furthermore, the longer they were exposed to the aerosols, the faster the first symptoms of disease emerged.

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