Prions in urine

toilet urine

This is one of the scariest papers I have read.

All prion diseases – like the mad cow disease, scrapie, Kuru or Creutzfeldt-Jacob (CJD) – are incurable and fatal. Up to recently, we thought the only way you can get it is by ingesting the meat of the affected animal. Or, as I reported a couple of months ago, by ingesting drugs derived from the pituitary glands of infected dead humans.

A paper published 4 years ago describes another unexpected way to contract this horrible deadly disease. Using electrophoresis, mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography selected reaction monitoring, Van Dorsselaer et al. (2011) found prion proteins in a class of infertility drugs, the injectable urine-derived gonadotropins. These drugs are given to hundreds of thousands of women in North America for infertility treatment. They are developed from the urine of donor women, who are screened for all sorts of diseases, but the CJD has a long incubation period (decades) and thus it may be un-detectable using non-invasive methods.

Now, this in itself is not so worrisome as additional screening of the final medicine can be done and eliminate the batches with prions. What scared the living you-know-what out of me is the thought that the infected humans pee in the toilet and then that goes to the water treatment plants and then comes to your faucet. My question is: can the purification done at the water treatment plant eliminate the prions? I really, really do not wish to be alarming and panicky, especially in a world where every other news you read/hear seems to be something scary, so I invite anybody with knowledge about water treatment to comment and let us all know that is impossible, or at least highly unlikely, to get prions from the drinkable water. I don’t know how, maybe some step in the water treatment kills proteins as a matter of course or something.

Reference:  Van Dorsselaer A, Carapito C, Delalande F, Schaeffer-Reiss C, Thierse D, Diemer H, McNair DS, Krewski D, & Cashman NR. (23 Mar 2011). Detection of prion protein in urine-derived injectable fertility products by a targeted proteomic approach. PLoS One, 6(3):e17815. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017815. Article | FREE FULLTEXT PDF

By Neuronicus, 18 November 2015


Alzheimer’s disease can be transmissible (by a prion-like mechanism)

ADCreutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD) is a deadly prion disease; a prion is a protein that has an abnormal shape (which is very bad, toxic) and has the capacity of infecting other proteins so that the normal proteins became prions themselves. Between 1958 and 1985, several tens of thousands people – mostly children – received growth hormone injections for growth deficiencies. This drug has been developed from the pituitary glands of dead humans. All the glands have been pooled together, homogenized, and then the hormone extracted, so if there was only one infected with the CJD all of them became infected. After a long and variable period of incubation (5 to 40 years), a few hundred of the injection recipients died of CJD.

Jaunmuktane et. al (2015) found that the brains of four of these people that died of CJD also had amyloid-β pathology, which is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a type of dementia. These people were unusually young to develop AD, between 36-51 years old. In almost all cases we know of early-onset AD, beside amyloid deposits, the patients also have some particular genetic mutations, e.g. APOE ε4 alleles. The people from the Jaunmuktane study did not have any genetic mutations, therefore, the amyloid deposits were a direct result of the contaminated injections given as children. Which means that some of those injections were having not only CJD prions, but also Alzheimer’s seed.

Reference: Jaunmuktane, Z., Mead, S. Ellis, M., Wadsworth, J. D. F., Nicoll, A. J., Kenny, J., Launchbury, F., Linehan, J., Richard-Loendt, A., Walker, A. S., Rudge, P., Collinge, J. & Brandner, S. (10 September 2015). Evidence for human transmission of amyloid-β pathology and cerebral amyloid angiopathy. Nature, 525: 247–250, DOI:doi:10.1038/nature15369. Article | FREE PDF | Nature cover | BBC cover

By Neuronicus, 21 September 2015