Sewage Sludge Contaminating Watersheds
New research confirms that people and animals dying of prion disease are contaminating the environment around them with a deadly protein in their bodily fluids.
Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the George and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Brain Related Illnesses at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues recently found prions in urine. The study has been published in the August 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The good news is that the research offers hope for earlier diagnosis among the millions of people impacted around the world. The discovery can promote earlier intervention and better disease management. It also can help develop screens to protect our blood supplies from donors with prion disease.
The bad news is that prions in urine underscore the environmental nightmare associated with Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD), Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and prion diseases among livestock and wildlife. Although there are many causes for prion disease, many people and animals are contracting it from environmental exposure (food, water and soil) and then contaminating the environment even more with their own bodily fluids. Once victims die, carcasses also contaminate soil and water.
“This is the first time that prions have been detected in human urine,” Dr. Soto told Neurology Today.
Soto failed to reference urine and blood studies performed earlier by Ruth Gabizon in 2001 and Reichl in 2002. These studies also detected prions in bodily fluids. Despite that detail, Soto’s findings can help focus global attention on the exploding prion problem.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for identifying, naming and studying deadly prions. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research.
In June 2012, Prusiner confirmed that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and even ALS are prion diseases similar, if not identical, to CJD in people, mad cow disease in livestock and chronic wasting disease in wildlife. The variations in disease progression could be due to genetics in the patients or mutations in the prion, not different diseases entirely.
Additional research has determined that the prion pathogen spreads through feces, saliva, blood, milk, soil, water and the tissue of infected animals and humans. If a single person with prion disease discharges bodily fluids or feces into a public sewer system, that sewage system is permanently infected and the amount of contamination will multiply and intensify daily. Everything discharged from that sewage system—reclaimed water and biosolids—can spread the contamination even further.
Once a prion reaches the soil, that soil is permanently contaminated and the entire watershed below that point is at risk forever. If your food and water is generated in that watershed, you have a higher risk of contracting prion disease.
With the help of weather, prions can migrate through wind and water. Rain and snow can rinse them into surface water, groundwater, streams, ponds, lakes, and oceans. Wildlife, livestock and humans can ingest prions from soil, water and food. We can’t afford to take the risk of further contaminating entire watersheds – increasing the pathway to humans, livestock, and wildlife downstream.
Because of these factors and others, we have an epidemic of prion disease around the world right now. The epidemic is worse in some regions of the world than others. For example, the death rate for Alzheimer’s is higher in Finland than any other country in the world. Iceland and the United States are runners up. In fact, the death rate for Alzheimer’s is higher in Washington state than any other known region in the world. These vast discrepancies can only be explained by environmental factors, including food, water and air pathways. Sewage disposal that contaminates local food and water supplies is likely part of the problem.
The scientific name for prion disease is Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” TSEs include Alzheimer’s, mad cow, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), chronic wasting disease, Huntington’s, scrapie and possibly Parkinson’s. This transmissible family of disease is unstoppable for many reasons. In addition, once items are exposed to victims of prion disease, they can never be sterilized again.
Alzheimer’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are indistinguishable. They are essentially the same disease. Medical professionals cannot tell the difference and it’s commonly known in the medical industry that the diagnoses are only a guess and that misdiagnoses are common—if there’s even a substantial difference between Alzheimer’s and CJD. It appears that CJD is caused by a more aggressive mutation of prion than Alzheimer’s, but a deadly prion is a deadly prion. There is no reason to believe that some prions behave differently than others in disease transmission and progression.