close
close

Government scientist investigating mysterious brain disease ‘banned’ from researching outbreak

By Caitlin Tilley, health reporter for Dailymail.Com

18:57 03 June 2024, updated 19:01 03 June 2024



A top scientist advising the Canadian government says he is stuck studying a strange outbreak of a mysterious and deadly brain disease in young adults and teenagers.

More than 200 New Brunswickers have bizarrely developed a dementia-like disorder that causes vivid hallucinations, the inability to speak and write, memory loss and even physical paralysis.

While the disease baffled doctors, local health officials focused on the misdiagnosis, concluding that most of the patients were actually suffering from common illnesses such as dementia and cancer.

Now damning evidence has emerged which suggests health chiefs may have deliberately blocked investigations into other potential causes – namely exposure to toxic pesticides.

In leaked emails sent between Dr. Michael Coulthart, a microbiologist, and members of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Dr Coulthart said he was “essentially estopped” from being involved in the research.

Top Canadian scientist says he’s stuck studying a mysterious outbreak of brain disease affecting more than young people

In the correspondence, seen by The Guardian, a government scientist, Dr Coulthart, wrote that he believed he had been sidelined because of “politics”, namely his desire to investigate links to environmental exposures.

The curious problem arose in 2021, when New Brunswick health officials said more than 40 people in the area were suffering from an unknown neurological syndrome that had symptoms similar to the degenerative brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a type of prion disease, which occurs when prions, a type of protein, trigger the abnormal folding of normal proteins in the brain, which can cause disease and damage to the brain.

Click here to resize this module

Dr. Coulthart is currently the head of the Canadian Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance System.

The symptoms of the patients’ symptoms were varied but severe – some residents were drooling uncontrollably, while others thought they had insects crawling on their skin.

Experts said the cases date back to 2015 and are among people aged 18 to 84, dozens of whom were healthy before being struck by the mystery disease.

They noted that they are seeing “more and more younger patients.”

And patients are still suffering. One young woman told The Guardian that “politicians don’t want to admit that something serious is happening, because then they have to solve the problem.”

She is forced to deal with muscle tremors and worsening coordination, and is told by a doctor that her failing memory is similar to patients decades her senior.

The woman can no longer cook because of her shaking hands, and now has to eat only frozen meals. He also needs to be reminded by a smart speaker to take medicine, eat and shower.

Gabrielle Cormier had to put her love for figure skating on hold and leave university at the age of 20 when she fell ill in 2019, becoming so weak that she now needs a wheelchair.

Ms Cormier, now 24, suffered memory loss, vision problems and the inability to stand for long periods, which left her needing to walk with a cane or use a wheelchair after he got sick.

Cormier says he’s had a passion for figure skating since he was eight, adding “it’s been my life”
The mysterious dementia-like neurological disease left her unable to walk independently and she had to give up skating as well as her time at university.

The commission of inquiry, along with the New Brunswick government, questioned the work of neurologist Alier Marrero.

Dr Marrero, along with Dr Coulthart, was the first to identify the cluster in 2019 and initially led the New Brunswick investigation.

Dr. Coulthart said in an email to a colleague, seen by The Guardian: “All I will say is that my scientific opinion is that there is something real going on in (New Brunswick) that absolutely cannot be explained by bias or his personal diary. an individual neurologist.

HAVE A HEALTH STORY?

EMAIL: [email protected]

“A few cases might be best explained by the latter, but there are too many (now over 200).”

The emails indicate that senior PHAC researchers are still concerned about the cause and symptoms of the disease, which appears to mainly affect younger people.

An October 2023 email chain between Dr. Coulthart and a PHAC member, Dr. Coulthart wrote that an “environmental exposure—or combination of exposures—triggers and/or accelerates a variety of neurodegenerative syndromes.”

Dr Coulthart added that because the disease is so complex, politicians have used this as a “loophole” to say “nothing coherent is happening”.

“I think the truth will emerge over time, but for now all we can do … is continue to collect information on the cases that come to us as suspected prion disease,” Dr. Coulthart said.

He had previously theorized that a neurotoxin called BMAA produced by blue-green algae could be responsible.

In March 2023, Dr. Marrero implored the Canadian government to do environmental testing, which he believed would show that the herbicide glyphosate had a role to play.

Glyphosate is regularly used by forestry companies in New Brunswick to limit plant growth.