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Mysterious brain damage confuses Canadian doctors

Convulsions, amnesia and hallucinatory brain scans in the symptoms of 43 patients in the Acadia region of New Brunswick. Photo: Pixel-shot / Alamy Stock Photo Canadian doctors fear that they may be dealing with a previously unknown brain disorder in a series of cases with amnesia, hallucinations, and muscle atrophy. doing. New Brunswick politicians demanded an answer, but in very few cases, experts said they had far more questions than the answer and urged the public not to panic. For over a year, public health officials have tracked 43 “clusters” of suspected neurological disorders in states of unknown cause. After a memo leak from a state public health agency last week called on doctors to be aware of symptoms similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and deadly brain disease caused by a false protein called prions. , Residents first learned about the survey. “We work with groups and experts from different countries, but no clear cause has been identified at this time,” said the memo. Many symptoms, including amnesia, vision problems, and abnormal seizures, have issued warnings on Canada’s CJD surveillance network. Despite the initial similarities, screening did not produce confirmed cases of CJD. Dr. Alier Marrero, a neurologist who leads the New Brunswick study, said: Whether a team of researchers, including federal scientists, is currently dealing with a previously unknown neurological syndrome, or a series of unrelated but previously known, and even curable illnesses. Are competing to judge. According to Marello, patients initially complained of unexplained pain, cramps, behavioral changes, and all other symptoms that could be easily diagnosed as anxiety or depression. However, over 18-36 months, they began to lose cognitive function, muscle wasting, drooling, and ticking teeth. Many patients also began to experience horrific hallucinations, including the sensation of insects crawling on the skin. To ensure that new cases are included in New Brunswick’s “cluster”, Marello and his team have worked on extensive studies of the patient’s medical history, as well as brain imaging, metabolic and toxicological examinations, and lumbar puncture. We will carry out a series of inspections. Exclude other possible illnesses such as dementia, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases. Only one suspected case was recorded in 2015, with 11 cases in 2019 and 24 cases in 2020. Researchers believe that five people died from the disease. Michael Coulthart, Head of CJD Surveillance Network in Canada, said: The majority of cases are associated with the less populated area of ​​the Acadian Peninsula in the northeastern part of the state. Although the overall number of cases within the cluster remains small, New Brunswick has a population of less than 800,000. Health officials refused to disclose the exact location of the incident. Marello and his team consulted with experts in neurology, environmental health, field epidemiology, zoonosis, and toxicology to better understand the cause of the mysterious disease. A growing team of researchers is working to determine if there is a common association between cases or environmental causes, including water sources, plants and insects. “I don’t know what’s causing it,” Marello said. “At this point, more and more patients appear to be suffering from this syndrome.” News of an unknown illness raised concerns, but experts warned against drawing premature conclusions. did. “I really don’t even know if we have a definite syndrome. We don’t have enough information yet,” said Valerie Sim, a neurodegenerative disease researcher at the University of Alberta. She said important markers of degenerative neurological disorders were not documented and that the widespread symptoms within the cluster were “atypical” for most brain disorders. At the same time, she said, certain cancers, dementia, and even misdiagnosis could explain the extent of the symptoms. The story also reveals the frustrating reality of medicine: diagnosing a patient can be difficult, and it’s a job full of unknowns. Neurologists can often introduce many tools to treat patients when the root cause of the disease is unknown. “Then the patients recover in some way. They leave without knowing what they actually had,” Sim said. “Sometimes we see strange neurological syndromes. Sometimes we understand them. Sometimes we don’t.”

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