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Airborne Prions Prove Lethal In Mouse Studies

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the denny-crane dept.

Medicine 116

sgunhouse writes "Wired has a story up on the lethality of airborne prions. It should be noted that prions (which cause 'mad cow disease' and similar disorders) are not normally airborne, and take a long time to kill the infected animal, but so far are 100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first. So, they are not likely to be useful as a biological weapon (my first thought when reading their headline), but they present another safety precaution to consider."

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116 comments

In other words (4, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885030)

pause, and think a moment before you run that cow through the wood chipper.

Re:In other words (5, Funny)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885100)

pause, and think a moment before you run that cow through the wood chipper.

I have paused to think. And now I can't get this question out of my head: How many cows would a woodchuck chip if a woodchuck would chip cows?

Re:In other words (4, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885858)

Next week, on Mythbusters.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34887268)

I think you have Mythbusters confused with the show by the same name that used to be on a few years ago. The current show by that name does paid advertisements for crappy movies that haven't come out yet.

Re:In other words (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885118)

Near your immuno-compromised mice. At least according to the tagline for the article.

Tagline is wrong (5, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885346)

I am not a biologist, but based on my reading of TFA, the scientists successfully infected immunodeficient and immunocompetent mice. It's counterintuitive, but the fact that the disease incubated in the immunodeficient mice at the same rate as the immunocompetent mice is what makes the research significant.

The immune system actually seems to play some kind of a role in prion diseases, acting as a kind of Trojan horse mechanism to spread the infection. It's not totally clear how this works, but the research supports that it happens. So what these scientists did is they inoculated immunodeficient mice with prions and observed them coming down with the prion disease in pretty much the exact same way as the immunocompetent ones. This establishes that a functioning immune system is not actually necessary for infection via aerosol. This means that an immunodeficient mouse, even when kept in semi-isolation, can potentially come down with a prion disease from an aerosol source even when it doesn't come in direct contact with any infected tissues.

That's a pretty big deal when you consider a lot of scientists in research laboratories might be working with immunodeficient mice, in the mistaken assumption that the mice will be safe from prion infection. The recommendation of this paper is that research lab safety guidelines note aerosols as a possible vector for prion infections, which they do not do now. I don't think this is really a warning aimed at keeping people from being infected. For the time being, at least, it's more about keeping research from being spoiled when lab animals come down with infections from unforeseen aerosol sources.

Re:In other words (2)

RsG (809189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885444)

From one of TFA:

Here we tested the cellular and molecular characteristics of prion propagation after aerosol exposure and after intranasal instillation. We found both inoculation routes to be largely independent of the immune system

Admittedly quoted out of context. But it does mean that no, having an immune system that works properly is not in and of itself enough to protect you from aerosol prions.

And despite what TFS says, I can see uses for this in biological warfare. A person exposed to airborne prions cannot transmit the disease to another human being, as person-to-person transmission has only been observed to occur via ingestion of tissue. So, unlike a viral or bacterial agent, there's no risk of a bioweapon attack spreading out from the initial targets to other populations. At the same time, there's the advantage over chemical weapons, in that an airborne agent needs to be at a minimum concentration in order to kill you, whereas a single prion in your system can start the needed protein chain reaction.

However, in order to make prions into useful weapons, they'd need to be lethal much faster than they are now, something that's a problem with bioweapons already. Chemical agents are more practical if only in that they kill in minutes instead of weeks. My biological understanding of prions is not good enough to make an accurate assessment as to whether they could be made faster acting, but I suspect it can't be done.

The long onset time for symptoms makes prions useless for tactical biological warfare, but they could be used as terror weapons or tools for assassination. Of course, prions can already be used for either of the above without making them airborne first, and haven't been so far as I know. Assassins would likely prefer something faster, and terrorists almost always default to low tech solutions like bombs, which can kill plenty of people reliably without needing any fancy preparation or patience.

Re:In other words (1, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885772)

The other major problem with bioweapons is that they cannot be aimed only at an enemy. They will affect everyone: Friend or foe, combatant or non-combatant, adult or child. Plus, unlike other non-discriminant killers, like land mines, you can never clear an area. You could nuke the area, but the biological agents could return, carried by insects or water or birds.

Bioweaponry must be banned and banned hard.

Re:In other words (3, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886260)

I did cover that with the second paragraph of my post. Prion bioweapons wouldn't be person-to-person contagious the way that viral or bacterial bioweapons are. Hence the comparison between prion weapons and chemical weapons, where in both cases only the people initially exposed will be affected. I should also clarify that I find the notion of actually using bioweapons to be a crime against humanity, but I have no problem hypothesizing about their use.

Also, the comparison to land mines is inept. Land mines last a long time, but only kill or maim one person per mine. Bioweapons don't last a long time, but can kill or main many people per deployment.

you can never clear an area. You could nuke the area, but the biological agents could return, carried by insects or water or birds.

No, this is demonstrably wrong.

Some, not all, pathogens are transmissible through animal vectors. If you were to weaponize bubonic plague then there could still be rodent carriers inside the exposed area after all human beings have been evacuated or died. Not every bioweapon has an animal vector available to it however, and even the ones that do, the animal must be at least partially asymptomatic in order to remain a threat, or it's going to die in short order. The "worst case" would be a disease that can jump species to something ubiquitous, like rats or mosquitoes, and can infect those species without killing them.

If you'd stated that some bioweapons remain a threat in a region after deployment, I would have accepted your argument as valid, but the way your post is written suggests that you think all bioweapons can, which is wrong.

Also, you listed "insects water and birds". Insects and birds belong on that list, and you didn't mention any other animals like rats, but water is another matter entirely. Waterborne transmission due to contamination is temporary. Water itself cannot act as a host. When a disease is waterborne, it either spends part of it's life-cycle in water, like the Guinea Worm, or it's the result of contamination via feces or dead organisms, like cholera.

Re:In other words (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34887342)

I meant as physical carriers, not as biological vectors. If you've got an airborne weapon, it will be picked up by flying creatures and rainfall, much like pollen. It can be physically transported out of the target area, and back in again.

Re:In other words (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886744)

OTOH (according to the summary), the claim is that if you don't die first, airborne prions will kill you. The same can be said about Cheez-Whiz.

Re:In other words (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885140)

More importantly, take more precautions if you work with slaughtered pigs and cows in a meat packing facility/slaughterhouse.

Re:In other words (5, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885230)

More importantly, take more precautions if you work with slaughtered pigs and cows in a meat packing facility/slaughterhouse.

Indeed, just below TFA was this [wired.com] little blurb pointing out exactly that - workers on a pig brain processing line came down with a serious autoimmune disorder linked to heavy exposure to pig brain pieces. Not prion linked apparently, but certainly a potential occupational hazard to all you Zombies out there.

Eeeew. (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885980)

Seems like it'd be sort of unnatural if it WASN'T unhealthy to blow brains out of a pig with compressed air.

Re:In other words (1)

MokuMokuRyoushi (1701196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885260)

The only pause I went through was a triple check of the title, before I realized it said nothing about lethal airborne prisons. I thought it made sense, with Nicholas Cage being the exception to the rule.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885656)

What about, before you mass burn all your infected mad cows? Do Prions burn? I seem to recall reading somewhere that they didn't necessarily. Kinda reminds me of The Walking Dead...you just start burning the zombies, but aren't you concerned about breathing in their remains?

Re:In other words (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885770)

Actually, the primary way of disposing of diseased animals at meat rendering plants is by putting them through a device very similar to a wood chipper. See the episode of Dirty Jobs where they visit such a facility for a very disturbing demonstration of such a device.

Re:In other words (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886042)

However, I've previously read that cows infected with Mad Cow Disease are disposed of by dissolving them in lye, not burning, precisely due to the risk that prions could survive the fire and become airborne.

Re:In other words (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886714)

However, I've previously read that cows infected with Mad Cow Disease are disposed of by dissolving them in lye, not burning, precisely due to the risk that prions could survive the fire and become airborne.

And become prion airs.

Re:In other words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886104)

Why is the parent of 5, Funny? I nearly spit out my drink. :)

If something else doesn't kill first? (4, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885056)

Birth is 100% lethal.

Well 99.9999% if you count that Jesus guy, Mary and Elisha.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885114)

A recent study showed that 100% of mass murderers ingested some form of dihydrogen monoxide within 48 hours of killing their victims. Warn your children about the dangerous effects of dihydrogen monoxide today!

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885120)

There are 650 thousand immortals around today?

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (2)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885166)

Yeah, I heard some guy talking about this big tournament, saying "there can only be one". I assume he meant winner, but, whatever, I wasn't really paying attention. His hair was too long for me to take him seriously.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885148)

Birth is 100% lethal.

Well 99.9999% if you count that Jesus guy, Mary and Elisha.

I'm not dead yet.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885180)

Doesn't mean birth isn't lethal.

That's like saying a Car Crash isn't lethal if you survive the impact, or that AIDS isn't lethal if you live for 5 years.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886124)

I agree that it does look like birth is pretty lethal, but there are billions of us still alive, so saying that birth is 100% lethal isn't accurate. It's likely it is accurate for every one of us alive here today, but we can't be sure they won't come up with an immortality spell tomorrow, so birth has been shown to be lethal in a much lesser percentage than 100 of observed cases so far.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885386)

Socially speaking, though, you are on /. I'm a bit of an expert on being socially dead.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885314)

Birth is 100% lethal.

I got 6 billion people say you're wrong.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885432)

Ask them again in about 200 years. I betcha, none of them will still be alive.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885688)

But I betcha none of them will say it was their births that killed them.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34887896)

I betcha none of them will say anything. They're fucking dead. Ex-humans. Sleepiest buggers you can meet.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885428)

You obviously need to watch some fight club, you forgot a crucial line, "on a long enough time line", ie "on a long enough time line, everyone's survival rate drops to zero"

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885430)

Birth is 100% lethal.

Well 99.9999% if you count that Jesus guy, Mary and Elisha.

Wrong.... Enoch, Elijah, and Jesus

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885458)

But only if you don't count Enoch's ascendancy as apocryphal

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886578)

There's an account of him being taken up in Genesis, so the book of Enoch shouldn't even need to be considered. Plus, responding to AC, birth was lethal for Jesus as well. He just came back afterwards.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886812)

You can add John the Apostle to that list, according to John 21:21-23.
Or, at least he may be around until the Second Coming.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885514)

Birth is 100% lethal.

Well 99.9999% if you count that Jesus guy, Mary and Elisha.

They still have to survive the Big Rip [wikipedia.org] . If they pull that off, I'll truly be impressed and dedicate my life to helping others. Otherwise I'll stay an asshole.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885646)

You're making a semantic argument or what? Because I'd argue that there is a big difference between "Uninfected lifespan: indefinite" to "Infected lifespan: finite." At least, to the infected person. To argue "Everyone is going to die, so if it's not immediate it doesn't matter" is idiotic.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885808)

Um... Jesus died. He just didn't stay dead.

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886440)

Well, it was more like lag with his life process than anything else. The great server in the sky usually has a 3 day ping (hey, it beats taking 40 days to reboot).

Re:If something else doesn't kill first? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#34887980)

93%.

In the world there has ever only been 100Billion people.

Out of those, 7Billion are still alive today. So how can you form your thesis like that?

Thanks for the laugh (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885066)

"100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first."

  In other news, 100% of people are struck by lightning if they don't die before it happens.

Facepalmed (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885072)

and take a long time to kill the infected animal, but so far are 100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first

So does breathing air...

You know what else (1, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885074)

You know what else is eventually lethal if something else doesn't kill you first? Being human, or in fact just being alive*.

*Unless you're a bacteria hibernating in a salt crystal, apparently.

Re:You know what else (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886344)

Sorry, but some bastard human scientist has collected you from your cryopod.
Face death like a bacterium!

Re:You know what else (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886770)

some plants also have a theoretically infinite lifespan, though such life spans tend to end in misfortunes because everyone gets unlucky eventually

lifespan (1)

ZX3 Junglist (643835) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885078)

I suppose a sociologist could have a field day with the study of lifespans of those groups who regularly cut apart certain cadavers: butchers, forensic scientists, mobsters, etc.

Come to think about it... (1)

o'reor (581921) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885080)

... birth is also "100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first."

OK, I'm outta here...

Re:Come to think about it... (1)

o'reor (581921) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885116)

Duh. At least 3 other answers to the same tune. Mod me redundant and let me have another pint...

100% lethal unless something else kills you first? (1)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885084)

can't the same thing be said about a glass of water? It will kill you, unless old age kills you first? That's a bit open-ended...

Re:100% lethal unless something else kills you fir (1)

quickgold192 (1014925) | more than 3 years ago | (#34887234)

I can't find a source right now, but I remember hearing that "old age" has not been an acceptable cause of death since the 80's. Nowadays the death certificate has to have something specific on it. (Usually cancer.)

oh yeah! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885092)

suck my big fat nigger cock!!!

Says who? (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885184)

So, they are not likely to be useful as a biological weapon

      A weapon that destroys your enemy's economy in a matter of years is still a viable weapon. Especially if it's hard to detect (ie by the time everyone shows signs of being sick, you are no longer deploying the weapon). This is scary stuff.

Re:Says who? (2)

CitizenCain (1209428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885572)

In fact, this strikes me as a damn near *perfect* biological weapon (if you can find or make enough malformed prions, and the findings apply to large mammals, like people).

100% lethal, non-communicable (so you don't have to worry about travelers spreading it back to "your people"), virtually impossible to detect and a long enough incubation period to make it impossible to quarantine or trace back to the source. Like you said, so what if people don't start dropping dead for a couple of years? That's a *selling* point in a bio weapon. People won't even know anything's wrong until long after you've gotten away with it, and far too late to do anything about it as well.

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone know if there's a place near Washington D.C. that sells malformed human prions? Preferably one that's willing to offer a volume discount.

Re:Says who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886140)

Of course, the downside is that the area becomes uninhabitable. Prions can be quite persistant. It's more of a scorched earth/suicide pact kind of thing.
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CC0QFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sludgevictims.com%2Fpdf_files%2FPRIONSINSEWAGEANDSLUDGE_PEDERSEN_ETAL.pdf&rct=j&q=prion%20persistance&ei=svkwTeqgBYygsQO78ITmBQ&usg=AFQjCNHyyEt6XPfycs6J8OnVmXVAxxyZSQ&sig2=H9IOpXM3oBgSWLlro4R48A&cad=rja

Re:Says who? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886226)

Provided you don't make soylent green out of the bodies and dispose of them adequately, I don't see how it could be a problem. Otherwise we'd have many more cases of C-J disease in populations near cemeteries...

Re:Says who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886254)

That's a *selling* point in a bio weapon. People won't even know anything's wrong until long after you've gotten away with it, and far too late to do anything about it as well.

Only if your actual goal is to kill a fuckton of people is it a "selling point". Apart from a few whackjobs, the whole point of WMDs is using them to threaten people to accomplish other goals - not actually using them.

And given the history with mad cow and the ability of prions to cross species, I'd be awfully pessimistic about the "non-communicable" part.

Re:Says who? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886750)

Apart from a few whackjobs, the whole point of WMDs is using them to threaten people to accomplish other goals - not actually using them.

True ... unless, of course, you come up with a viable treatment for your weapon and can prove it works. Then you could place an entire population under a death sentence ... with you holding the reprieve.

That would probably buy you a lot of influence to accomplish those other goals.

Re:Says who? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34887996)

On a completely unrelated note, does anyone know if there's a place near Washington D.C. that sells malformed human prions? Preferably one that's willing to offer a volume discount.

Capitol Hill?
I have heard congress-critters can be bought easily now days.

Re:Says who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34885830)

Origin of zombie plagues?

Re:Says who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34887602)

This is *Exactly* what a biological weapon should be. The OP is misinformed about what makes (or doesn't make) a good bioweapon.

The entire problem with biological agents is that they can be spread from human-to-human. Transmission is *the* big problem in bioweapons because it is uncontrollable. ie: An attack on one's enemy can quickly become an attack on one's own population.

But an aerosolized bioweapon which is undetected for 100's of days? With controllable transmission?

Can you say "Holy Sh*t"? This is an unprecedented new category of bioweapon.

Prions straddle living/non living gap (2, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885234)

Prions are strange in the sense, they are almost on the dividing line between living and non living. They have no DNA/RNA, no need to breath or even to eat, but they replicate that makes them different from venom and poison. How long do the exist in prion form left to themselves I wonder. Can they exist in some dried powder form forever? Or do they spontaneously disintegrate into constituent compounds?

Leather tanning industry has some really weird mix of chemicals and some of them involve brain matter. Hope the left over prions on the leather jackets degrade or wear off.

Re:Prions straddle living/non living gap (3, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885414)

How long do the exist in prion form left to themselves I wonder. Can they exist in some dried powder form forever? Or do they spontaneously disintegrate into constituent compounds?

Scientists have taken prion-infected tissue and reduced it to ashes in a crucible at 600 C, and there were still viable, infective prions in the ashes.

they aren't living (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886544)

is silver iodide used in rainmaking living? it catalyzes a chain reaction

is a bit of ice in supercooled water living? it catalyzes a chain reaction

take a prion, put it at the right spot in a susceptible brain, and it makes a cascade of prions. this is chemistry, not life. if you call a prion living, lots of chain reactions in nature you would have to call living

now a virus, that's the border between living and nonliving

Re:Prions straddle living/non living gap (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34888078)

circletimessquare correctly addressed the "living" issue. Prions are plain dead proteins, they're not alive in any sense. But there is another, even simpler misconception.

but they replicate

No, they don't. Prions have no ability whatsoever to replicate. They are plain boring proteins like all other proteins and as such are completely dependent on the common protein biochemistry (coded in DNA - transcribed to RNA - translated to the actual protein sequence - folded to yield a particular, specific 3D structure).

How long do the exist in prion form left to themselves I wonder. Can they exist in some dried powder form forever?

Of course, as they are proteins like, say, keratin (this is what our hairs and nails are mainly made of).

Or do they spontaneously disintegrate into constituent compounds?

Like all other proteins, they can be destroyed, e. g., disassembled into their building blocks (amino acids or simpler chemicals). Although they seem to be rather hard to destroy compared to other proteins, but I don't research in this field, alas.

On a side note, "sterilization" of things is usually done by cooking at about 120 C for 20 minutes or so (of course, this is done under pressure in order to reach the high temperature). This does not, however, disintegrate all of the proteins and other things (DNA/RNA) chemically. It just destroys their natural 3D folding, thereby disabling all but the most resistant proteins. And prions seem to be of a more resistant kind.

The interesting twist about prions is this:

The normal prion protein, called PrPC ("C" for "cellular"), is folded in a particular way. It is a protein like I have described above. It is synthesized in our brain and does no harm (although its precise function is not yet known). The misfolded, dangerous prion protein, called PrPSc ("Sc" for scrapie), is folded in another particular way. There is no (major) chemical difference between these proteins, so, PrPSc is also a normal protein like I have described above. Neither PrPC nor PrPSc can replicate.

So, what's it all about?

Prions aka PrPSc induce normal PrPC to misfold. PrPC then becomes another PrPSc. If you have 10 PrPC and add 1 PrPSc, this single PrPSc molecule will induce some or all of PrPC to become PrPSc. If you have 11 PrPSc molecules afterwards, there is still no replication.

PrPSc can't replicate, the just can transform preexisting PrPC. They are as lifeless as they are unable to replicate.

Wikipedia entries about PRNP and Prion should explain this and more in even more detail.

It has an LD50 of 0 (1, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885302)

There. I told a different joke. A nerdier one. There ought to be a +1 Nerdy mod for that sort of thing here.

Prions: Bunch of Hooey (1, Interesting)

Yergle143 (848772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885408)

Wow. Those genetically modified mice "tga20 transgenic mice overexpressing PrPC" bred to be hyper-susceptible seem to be highly susceptible. After 15+ years of this "ice 9" business I'm still waiting for results that in any way meet Koch's Postulates. Oh yeah, let's stop calling this protein "prion" and start calling it a proteinaceous "toxin" which is what it is. Moreover, since this Nobel Prize winning hypothesis in no way seems to conform with the reality of widely spreading communicable encephalitis in sheep, beef and mule deer why not entertain the notion that this is a slow virus and that the symptomatic misfolded protein is a mere phenotype, possibly detrimental, but not causal. Oh yeah, figuring this out would mean working with big smelly farm animals and we prion people don't like to get dirty.
Meanwhile Laura Manuelidis is fighting the good fight against overwhelming odds.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Manuelidis [wikipedia.org]

Re:Prions: Bunch of Hooey (1)

lazy genes (741633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885634)

If it takes billions of dollars to get prions to jump species in the lab it probably wont happen in nature.

Re:Prions: Bunch of Hooey (4, Insightful)

ihaque (1074767) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885992)

After 15+ years of this "ice 9" business I'm still waiting for results that in any way meet Koch's Postulates.

OK, this one will cover a lot of ground. Weber P et al. Cell-free formation of misfolded prion protein with authentic prion infectivity. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA 2006 October 24; 103(43): 15818–15823. [nih.gov] It's open-access, so no excuses about being stuck behind a paywall.

Making claims that biochemists working on prions "don't like to get dirty" is both insulting and disingenuous. Animal models are, in fact, used here to demonstrate that purified PrPsc (misfolded prion protein) is infectious in live hosts, in addition to triggering misfolding in vitro. No one uses farm animals because they're large, expensive, and there's no compelling reason to incur that cost when simpler model animals (here, hamsters) will do.

why not entertain the notion that this is a slow virus and that the symptomatic misfolded protein is a mere phenotype, possibly detrimental, but not causal

Well, because the linked paper was able to amplify the infective population of PrPsc in a cell-free system, which would not be conducive to the amplification of a virus.

I understand the appeal of an underdog hypothesis, but unless you can present a better argument that isn't comprised of ad hominems, vague conspiracy theories, and a smattering of scientific claims answered by 5-year-old literature, I'm not convinced.

Open Access Closed Access -- Give me an RO1 (-1)

Yergle143 (848772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886356)

Forgive my wrath, nothing personal, this is science.
"Cell Free" -- are you kidding me -- in vitro? Readit. I have thirty more papers just like it stored in my, "I may write a grant on this someday" folder.
Wikipedia guided me to this one -- not fancy PNAS -- also open BMC veterinary research [1746-6148] Konold (2008 recent) volume: 4 issue: 1 page: 14
Scrapie OPD (Original Prion Disease) Bunch of Sheep, some have Scrapie, PrPd positive. Biosafety 4 (who cleans up the manure). The mama sheep (who go by the scientific term of Ewes) are observed to pass on scrapie to their lambs through their milk. Alright. They didn't separate the lambs receiving scrapie milk from the nulls other and then
"A subsequent sample collected from control lambs revealed PrPd accumulation in two of five lambs eight months after mixing with scrapie milk recipients suggestive of an early stage of infection via lateral transmission." Oops! Boy that scrapie milk sure travels. Please give these guys more money to set some better controls. Virus ahoy my hearties!

Re:Open Access Closed Access -- Give me an RO1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886594)

After you learn how to phrase a sentence coherently, perhaps people will start listening to you.

Re:Prions: Bunch of Hooey (4, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886212)

After 15+ years of this "ice 9" business I'm still waiting for results that in any way meet Koch's Postulates.

But Laura Manuelidis is claiming that vCJD and others are caused by "a slow-acting virus"... and Koch's Postulates aren't strictly applicable to viruses either. The best that Manuelidis has managed to do is to isolate "virus-like DNA signatures" -- which does not even prove the presence of a virus, let alone that a virus is causative. So in the best case scenario, Manuelidis may have raised some questions, but has been no more successful at meeting your preconditions for accuracy than anybody else. You apparently just think she's "fighting the good fight" because -- much like Jenny McCarthy -- she questions the prevailing theory. That attitude is bad science.

Re:Prions: Bunch of Hooey (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34887248)

It is known to be infectious without any genetic material and thus is a prion, not a proteinaceous toxin.

Koch's postulates were deemed too restrictive even by Koch. They provide a basic way of examining disease, but do not in any way encompass all of what is known about disease.

100% lethal (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885472)

Isn't everything 100% lethal provided something else doesn't kill you first?

Re:100% lethal (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885658)

Yeah, but it won't necessarily rot your mind in the process like prion disease does. Could be a horrific terrorist weapon, assuming the terrorists are long-sighted enough - poison a large number of the population with something that they won't even know they have for 5-20 years, then watch society crumble as half the population suffers from mindrot.

They don't even need to do the research now to see if it works or not.

Of course, you die *without* prions... (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885476)

... because otherwise your proteins wouldn't work properly. I guess it's just another misunderstood buzzword now.

Who the F^-* ?? (2, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 3 years ago | (#34885518)

Who would even do an experiment with such things?

Re:Who the F^-* ?? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886186)

Who would even do an experiment with such things?

People who then know more than those that don't bother checking. Tribes with this characteristic are thought to optimize their use of limit resources slightly over people who would never think to check for themselves.

One could call them ... winners.

random bits of broken biocode (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34886728)

ghosts in the biomachine
so small is so deadly
little information can be lethal
context is critical
don't mess with mother
life death on off or off on
existence seems so binary

Isn't everything that lethal ? (1)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 3 years ago | (#34886868)

Anything I can think of is 100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first.

Re:Isn't everything that lethal ? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34887140)

Anything I can think of is 100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first.

Yep... even water. Come to think of it... 100% of animals that were alive and then died ingested some water during their lifetime. This makes water some pretty dangerous stuff.

I suppose the computer equivalent to throwing prions into the air is pointing a fan at a fully powered up computer with open case running full blast, and dumping a 5 pound bag of copper and iron filings across the path of the fan, so they go everywhere.

No further testing needed (1)

kiveya (1864740) | more than 3 years ago | (#34887486)

I misread the title as "Airborne Prius Prove Lethal..." and had to wonder why they were testing it on mice.
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