Canadian health authorities are at a loss to explain the mysterious brain disease, affecting more and more residents of Canada’s eastern Maritime Province of New Brunswick and has already killed six of them. 

The disease strikes men and women equally. At least 48 people between the ages of 18 and 85 show symptoms of rapid deterioration characterized by visual and auditory hallucinations, memory loss, difficulty walking, and balance problems, RT reported on June 5. 

“The discovery of a potentially new and unknown syndrome is scary,” New Brunswick Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said on June 3, referring to uncertainty among the region’s residents.

She added that they are “worried and confused” about the new disease. Moreover, Dr. Natalie Banville said they don’t know how to guide people to protect themselves because they don’t know the causes. 

“We’re researching. We have no environmental causes, we have no genetic causes, we have no medication causes—we have no cause established,” Banville said. So a special clinic was opened to diagnose and treat suspected patients.

Among the possible causes being considered are contamination by toxins, bacteria, or viruses. For the time being, the patients and their families answer an exhaustive questionnaire that can take up to four hours.

Luc Leblanc, 41, a patient diagnosed with the disease of unknown origin, said, “I never got any answers that I was looking for, or how to cope, or how to extend my life,” according to RT.  

And he added that from his perception, it is like “a time bomb” because “You don’t know how long you have.”

One of the hypotheses considered about this brain damage, called New Brunswick Syndrome, related it to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) given the similarities of the symptoms, but the patients tested negative.

CJD is the most common form of human prion neurodegenerative disease, rare, with an incidence of 1 to 1.5 cases per million per year, caused by the abnormal accumulation of prion protein.

One of its variants is commonly known as mad cow disease. It is caused by exposure to infectious prions from misfolded proteins consumed through the diet. 

A clinical scientist in the division of neurology at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Medicine and member of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, Dr. Neil Cashman, cautions that there is always a fear of prions being transmitted from other animals to humans.

“There is a normal prion protein which we all have,” explains Dr. Cashman, “It is most abundantly expressed in the brain and can be triggered to misfold spontaneously in the body, resulting in CJD.”

On the other hand, the creation of vaccines has been fraught with problems because they are often susceptible to inducing these prion diseases, one of the risks that some specialists, such as the American immunologist, John Barthelow Classen, notes in one of his studies.

“The attached finding, as well as additional potential risks, lead the author to believe that regulatory approval of RNA-based vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 was premature and that the vaccine may cause much more harm than good,” Classen warned.