Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Public Health Matters Blog

Sharing our stories on preparing for and responding to public health events

Share
Compartir

New Brain Disease is Blowing Minds

Categories: Zoonotic Disease

Two pigs in a pig pen.

Just saw an email from Alex Thiermann. Of the twelve countries OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) has corresponded with (Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom), none have observed anything similar to the newly identified brain illness that is linked, curiously, to the practice of blowing pig brains.

A recent cluster of unusual illness – causing swelling in the brain and sometimes leading to complete paralysis of the legs – has been discovered in otherwise healthy slaughterhouse workers in Minnesota and Indiana.  All sick workers were exposed to an unusual technique of removing pig brains from their skulls using a compressed air device – a technique endearingly termed “blowing brains”.  Investigation of the illness is still ongoing.  However, laboratory tests have not yet found any infectious agent (virus, bacteria, etc.), that can be causing the disease.  This outbreak of what has come to be known as Progressive Inflammatory Neuropathy (PIN) was identified by state and local health departments, who engaged CDC to reach out into the international community to ask if this brain condition is occurring anywhere else.

The unsolved mystery of this interesting slaughterhouse practice, a job not for the weak of stomach, is how this somewhat “innovative” technique is linked to the onset of a progressive and debilitating brain condition.  Current information suggests that brain tissue is being aerosolized during the process, and is either inhaled or absorbed through the skin.  What happens after that is still poorly understood, but one possible explanation is that the human immune system begins to attack the foreign brain material and progresses to destroying its own brain cells, which are actually quite similar to pig cells.  More information about the ongoing investigation can be found here:  MMWR PIN.

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this blog is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. May 24, 2011 at 9:43 am ET  -   Jennifer

    I think the success of your Zombie blog would be good to promote information and learning about other diseases. I personally am interested in new discoveries and diseases and prevention but others need a more modern spin on it as an incentive to learn.

    Perhaps articles like this could be added to a compendium or archive of Zombie-like, or Vampire-like diseases that would cash in on the current fad, and “die hard” fans of this form of theoretical/hypothetical discussion. This article in particular would be a shoe in for the Zombie collection. It is fascinating to me as I was unaware of a brain disease coming from another brain possibly aerosoling into the air and into the skin.

    Link to this comment

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

All comments posted become a part of the public domain, and users are responsible for their comments. This is a moderated blog and your comments will be reviewed before they are posted. Read more about our comment policy »

 
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #