Prion Pathogen Threatens Mammals

Norway confirmed its first cases of mad cow disease in history last week (it subsequently found prion disease in reindeer), while Canada confirmed yet another case in Alberta today. It’s the first case to be reported in Canada since 2011.

In my opinion, these reported cases (and most others) are just the tip of a broader iceberg that is spreading like wildfire through the environment. The pathogen is spreading unchecked, while killing mammals of all shapes and sizes around the globe, including humans (Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Denial only makes the problems worse.

This epidemic is spreading exponentially because of deadly proteins called prions. Prion disease is killing livestock, wildlife and humans of all ages. There is no cure for prion disease. It’s always fatal. Each victim magnifies the problem.

The technical term for prion disease is transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). TSEs are known as Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and kuru in humans. There is little, if any, difference. Doctors are merely guessing upon each diagnosis. Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease also appear to be related.

TSEs also are known as mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. We know TSEs as chronic wasting disease in deer, including elk and moose. The disease has been found in a host of mammals, including dolphins, cats, mink and elephants. All mammals appear to be vulnerable to deadly prions and prion disease.

Unfortunately, prions are unstoppable. They are not alive, which means that they can’t be killed. Mammals with prion disease are walking disasters that contaminate everything around them through their bodily fluids and cell tissue. Victims are infectious long before they are visibly sick. The blood, saliva, urine, feces and milk of victims will infect everything that they contact forever, including soil and water. Sewage sludge and wastewater reclamation are spreading the disease far and wide.


Prions are not science fiction. Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions. President Obama presented Prusiner with the National Medal Of Science in 2010 as further recognition of his work. Although Prusiner’s research is ongoing, we know enough about prions now to sound the alarm on many levels. Our best hope against the spread of prions and TSEs is the truth. We can’t make vital reforms in the face of denial and misinformation.

Regardless of the country involved, mad cow disease investigations have mostly been handled the same way. This is likely how we can expect the cases in Alberta, Norway and elsewhere to unfold, yet again. The public statement will probably sound something like this:

  1. This is further proof that our surveillance and testing system worked. You’re in good hands. Don’t worry. Be happy.
  2. The cows were old dairy cows (actually the case in Alberta is a beef cow) and they never entered the food chain. So don’t worry, your hamburger is safe. Do you want fries with that?
  3. We isolated the farms where the cows came from and we identified all of the offspring from the infected animals. They’re happy and healthy.
  4. We suspect that these cows got hold of some old feed that was contaminated. We won’t let it happen again.
  5. Again, the system and your tax dollars are hard at work serving and protecting–something.

Now let’s dissect this patented response above and start demanding the truth. First of all, there is no such thing as an isolated case of prion disease. That’s the equivalent of saying that you can contain radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb. Prions from just one victim are impossible to contain. And the sources that exposed each victim so far obviously are not contained. As the saying goes, “do the math.” Pandora’s box is wide open and it is impossible to contain the prions that are escaping and multiplying daily.

biosolids and disease

Yes, it matters where sick animals crossed paths with prions, but it’s equally, if not more, important to keep our eye on the sick animals that we know about. It’s impossible to know what each one contaminated before it was stopped. It would be impossible to sterilize or contain it even if we did.

In theory, everything downstream and downwind from infected farms also is exposed because prions are microscopic. Officials who claim that these (and past instances) are isolated and contained should be fired for incompetency and charged with reckless endangerment of the public health and bioterrorism.

Secondly, these sick animals were likely identified because they exhibited clinical signs of mad cow disease. Shaking. Excessive fear. Attempting to urinate constantly. These animals were sick and infectious for months before they were pulled and culled. Everywhere they walked, urinated, defecated, licked and drank for the past year or more was exposed and infected permanently. Every animal that has walked in their tracks was exposed. Every animal that touched noses with a sick cow is exposed. The ripple effect is perpetual.

mad cow disease

These farms should be quarantined and condemned forever. Sterilization is impossible. The sites will continue to infect animals and humans. Contaminated soil will contaminate water runoff and groundwater.

Again, in the past, the dairy cows with mad cow disease supposedly never entered the food chain, (except for one in Washington State). However, officials never discuss the milk from the sick cows. These cows produced milk long before being pulled from the production line.

Prions have been found in the milk of mammals. There is no reason to assume that the milk from dairy cattle would be immune. Therefore, unknown quantities of milk could have entered the production system daily for months. Those production lines are exposed and impossible to sterilize. They essentially become prion incubators and distributors. Every gallon of milk that enters the system is exposed to deadly prion pathogens. The same exposure continues right through the food processing chain and right to your table. Anything that ever touches tainted food products is at risk—forever.

Finding the offspring of animals involved is challenging, if not impossible. Animals found should be quarantined for long-term study. The bulls that mated with these infected cows also should be pulled, since all bodily fluids are infected. A bull could expose the entire herd after mating with just one sick cow.

As you can see, the prion pathways to livestock alone take many forms. Contaminated feed made from the meat and bones of dead cattle is only one way for this disease to spread. Even though that practice has finally been outlawed in most countries as it relates to cattle, regulations have been weak and contaminated feed processing facilities were never condemned. Suffice it to say, loopholes and risks abound, but other pathways demand scrutiny and reform.

One such pathway involves human sewage and the risks that it poses to livestock and the broader environment. Livestock graze on pastures treated with biosolids (sewage sludge) and reused wastewater. Since millions of people around the world have already been diagnosed with prion disease in the form of Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (there is very little difference, if any, between these two diseases), these victims and millions more who have not been diagnosed are spreading prions via their bodily fluids. Infected sewage goes to a wastewater processing facility, where the prion pathogens incubate and spread even further. If prions are impossible to stop in a sterile environment such as a hospital, sewage plants aren’t stopping them, either. Just ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

sewage sludge land application

“We have a very fulsome testing procedure. We don’t change from our controlled risk status, so we don’t see this interfering with any of our trade corridors at this time,” Gerry Ritz of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said.

Canada works under international protocols that allow for up to a dozen cases a year of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, Ritz said. Unfortunately, tolerating the disease means admitting the spread of prions into food, water and beyond.

Ritz said the infected animal was not born on the farm where it was discovered. The CFIA said it is still trying to determine the cow’s history and how it became infected.

“The investigation will focus in on the feed supplied to this animal during the first year of its life,” the agency said in a release (surprise). “The agency will also trace out all animals of equivalent risk. Equivalent risk animals will be ordered destroyed and tested for BSE.”

Canada’s first known case was discovered in 1993 in a cow from a farm near Red Deer, Alta. The animal had been imported from Britain.

The first instance of BSE in a Canadian-born beef cow was in May 2003. It’s suspected that animal became infected through contaminated animal feed that contained a protein supplement made with ground meat and bone meal.

The first home-grown case of BSE devastated Canada’s beef industry. About 40 markets immediately closed their borders to Canadian cattle and beef products, although many of those markets have since reopened.

Testing of cattle was strengthened following the mad cow crisis and specified risk materials, such as brains and spinal columns, were banned for use in feed and other products. Unfortunately, those measures are not enough to control or contain aggressive prions.

chronic wasting disease

Doug Gillespie, president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, said the new case isn’t surprising.

“They expect to find one of these from time to time. It really shows our system is working, that beef is safe. It really never reached the food chain or anything,” he said from his farm near Swift Current, Saskatchewan. (Thanks, Doug. We knew you would say something like that.)

We can dissect the issue of prion management in many ways, but we can’t solve these problems if we keep spreading pathogens and lies. Join us as we attempt to reform regulations and best practices around the globe. For more information about the prion disease epidemic, please visit

Earth News

Earth News is a division of Crossbow Communications. Earth News is a syndicated environmental news service. The company covers a variety of health and environmental issues, including biodiversity, chronic wasting disease, climate change, deforestation, endangered species, global warming, neurodegenerative disease, neurotoxins, wildlife conservation and more.