Whistleblower sounds alarm over degenerative mystery illness causing hallucinations and fatigue, The Guardian reports

·3 min read
A technician looks at a computer screen showing a brain scan.
Medical imaging service in a hospital in Savoie, France. A technician monitors a brain MRI scan session.BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • A whistleblower spoke to The Guardian about a neurological condition in New Brunswick, Canada.

  • They said the illness spreads quickly and that cases could be higher than thought.

  • Symptoms include fatigue, hallucinations, muscle weakness, and weight loss.

An anonymous Canadian whistleblower from Vitalité Health Network, one of New Brunswick's two health authorities, has said that more people are developing symptoms of a mysterious degenerative neurological condition, according to The Guardian.

The condition, concentrated in New Brunswick, on Canada's Atlantic coast, has been analyzed by researchers for over two years, but there is still no understanding as to what causes it.

Symptoms of the illness include memory problems, muscle spasms, extreme and unexplained weight loss, limb pain, and hallucinations.

The disease was originally hypothesized to be a human prion disease — in which proteins called prions caused normal proteins to fold abnormally — but tests have shown this is not the case.

So far, the New Brunswick Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health has publicly said that 48 people have had the disease, but sources told The Guardian the number of cases is thought to be much higher. Nine people have died from the disease, the office said.

Speaking to The Guardian about the severity of the disease, the whistleblower said they were going public to raise awareness at how quickly the baffling disease spreads and affects patients: "I'm truly concerned about these cases because they seem to evolve so fast."

The disease affects women and men equally, with patients aged 18 to 85.

An epidemiological study by the New Brunswick health department ruled out any food, behavior, or environmental exposure that could be causing the illness.

A paper was presented to the Canadian Association of Neuropathologists that stated that those who had died with the disease had incorrect or missed diagnoses, such as Alzheimer's and cancer, and were not part of the cluster.

The paper caused a furor. In November, Kat Lanteigne, head of the nonprofit advocacy group BloodWatch, told The Guardian: "We've asked unequivocally for that study to be pulled and for an apology to be issued. Every single scientist that our organization has ever worked with or reached out to is absolutely mortified."

Tim Beatty, whose father, Laurie, died at 64 after exhibiting symptoms of the mystery illness, told The Guardian that not enough is being done to understand the condition.

There has been speculation that the condition could be caused by high levels of beta-Methylamino-L-alanine, or BMAA. High concentrations are found in lobsters, an important industry on New Brunswick's coast.

But despite Beatty's asking the health department to test the BMAA levels in his father's corpse, they have not done so.

"If a group of people wanted to breed conspiracy theorists, then our government has done a wonderful job at promoting it," Beatty told The Guardian. "Are they just trying to create a narrative for the public that they hope we'll absorb and walk away from? I just don't understand it."

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