Canadian doctors are concerned about an unknown brain disease that causes memory loss, hallucinations, and spasms. There are currently 43 patients known, who all live in the same region.
Doctors in Canada have been investigating a cluster of 43 cases in the Acadia region of the southeastern province of New Brunswick for over a year. The patients all suffer from an as yet unknown neurological disease, which has symptoms such as memory loss, hallucinations, and muscle wasting. That writes The Guardian.
Residents of the region had only known of the disease as of last week when a memo was leaked in which the county health agency asked doctors to be on the lookout for symptoms similar to those of the rare and deadly Creutzfeldt-Jakob brain disease. Malformed proteins or prions cause it.
Experts are in the dark about the cause of the unknown disease but emphasize that there is no reason to panic yet. “We work together with different groups and experts, but we could not yet identify a clear cause,” the memo says.
Symptoms include memory loss, vision problems, and spasms, but despite similarities to Creutzfeldt-Jakob, it does not seem to be the same disease. “We have no evidence to suggest that this is a prion disease,” said lead investigator Dr. Alier Marrero.
According to Marrero, the patients initially complained of unexplained pain, spasms, and behavioral changes, but after 18 to 36 months, the patients also reported memory loss, loss of muscle strength, drooling, and chattering teeth.
Some patients also experienced terrifying hallucinations, such as the feeling of insects crawling on their skin.
One of the suspected cases was recorded in 2015. In 2019 there were 11 cases, and in 2020 there are 24. It is believed that 5 people died from the disease.
The majority of the patients live on the Acadian peninsula, a sparsely populated area in the northeastern part of the province, which has less than 800,000 inhabitants.
Researchers are examining whether there is a link with possible natural causes, such as water sources, plants, and insects in the region.