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From: TSS ()
Subject: Killer Brain Disease Baffles Doctors Houston Texas
Date: May 7, 2005 at 8:38 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Killer Brain Disease Baffles Doctors
Date: Sat, 7 May 2005 10:15:53 -0500
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Killer Brain Disease Baffles Doctors

Disease Mimics Alzheimer's, Dementia, Mental Illness

POSTED: 2:50 pm CDT May 6, 2005
UPDATED: 10:10 pm CDT May 6, 2005
HOUSTON -- A disease claiming lives in the Houston area is also baffling
doctors. According to an exclusive Local 2 Troubleshooters investigation
Friday, some call it "the killer that can't be killed."

The disease was discovered by two German researchers in the 1920s, but
about 80 years later, doctors still have little understanding how it's
contracted or even how to treat it.

Sherry Means' mother died of what's known as CJD."I would come home from
work at night and she would be crying -- just crying, crying, crying so
hard," she said.For 12 months, Means was forced to watch her mother
deteriorate from an active 57-year old into a woman who could no longer
perform even the simplest of functions.

"I'm mad at God, because why did he have to choose my mother?" Means
said.Tommy Barnes had the same question when it came to his 71-year old
mother, Burnell."She lost her speech functions. She lost a lot of motor
control," Barnes said.Barnes and Means live 150 miles apart but share
one very agonizing bond. Both of their mothers died of what's called
Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, or CJD.The disease works when an abnormal
protein, called a prion, begins invading cells. The infected cells and
abnormal proteins form deposits in the brain, causing holes, essentially
leaving a person's brain looking like a sponge.There is no cure and no
known treatment. Those diagnosed with the disease are dead within a
year."We live right next door to one of the world's greatest medical
centers and yet there was nothing they could do," said Doug Means, whose
wife died of CJD.You may not realize it, but you have heard of CJD. One
way it's contracted is through eating infected beef -- "mad cow
disease."There has only been one case of mad cow disesae causing CJD in
the United States, but it was a Florida woman who grew up in the United
Kingdom, where infected beef was prevalent.Some cases have been linked
to unfortunate hereditary traits, but the vast majority of CJD cases in
the U.S. are termed "sporadic," which means doctors have no clue how
people get it."It seems like that term "sporadic" bothers you," Local
2's Robert Arnold said."It does because it doesn't give you an answer,"
Barnes said."We know part of the story, but we don't know the full story
at this point," said Dr. Arthur Bracey of St. Luke's Hospital.Bracey
said the problem for researchers is that an abnormal protein, not a
living organism, causes CJD."The biggest stumbling block is it's not
like a bacteria. You can't grow it in a petri-dish and raise thousands
and thousands of colonies and study it," he said.Doctors do not believe
CJD can be passed through casual contact with someone who has the
disease. It's medical professionals and those who work in funeral homes
who have to be especially careful. That's because the protein that
causes the disease does not die with its host.Researchers estimate 250
people a year die from CJD. But the medical community is not completely
confident with that number because CJD can be easily misdiagnosed.It
mimics other diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia and mental illness.
In fact, before doctors figured out that Means had CJD, she was put into
a mental hospital because she lapsed into a severe state of
paranoia."(She thought) that we were trying to kill her, that someone
was going to come into her house and steal her jewelry," Sherry Means
said.Another problem in tracking the disease is the only way to be
certain a person has CJD is through a brain biopsy -- something that
doesn't happen until after the person dies."Most of the hospitals in the
Houston area, as well as the neurosurgeons, are not anxious to do these
biopsies," said Dr. Martin Steiner, a neurologist.Steiner said regular
methods of sterilization that kill almost every other type of disease
cannot kill the protein that causes CJD."You run the risk of causing
transmission to other patients," he said.While doctors struggle with
unlocking the mystery of this disease, families are left to struggle
with the horror of a disease that moves with frightening speed. The
disease destroyed a mind capable of beautiful poetry."My book of life is
written each day, things can be added, not taken away," Tommy Barnes'
mother wrote.The disease also destroyed one family's peace of mind."This
disease is horrible and it's so hard to watch. I wouldn't wish it on my
worst enemy," Sherry Means said.Another problem with tracing the origins
of CJD is that it can lay dormant in a person for up to a decade. Also,
Texas didn't even begin tracking CJD cases until two years ago.Now state
health officials are trying to back track and, so far, have found 48
cases of the disease since 1997.The National Prion Center in Cleveland,
Ohio, is trying to track down how many CJD cases there have been
nationwide. Also, researchers at the University of California's Aging
and Memory Clinic are experimenting with a new drug called Quinacrine,
hoping to find a treatment for CJD patients.More Information On
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease:


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:
Information Page
* | Fact Sheet
World Health Organization Info
* CDC Info
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation, Inc.
Help Line: (800) 659-1991


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