‘Camel Prion Disease’ discovered in dromedaries in Algeria

Prion diseases are neurodegenerative diseases with a fatal course affecting both humans and animals. Remember Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as the Mad Cow disease, the prion disease that resulted in the culling of 4.4 million British cows. Since 1986, 177 people died as a result of contracting BSE.
Several of these dreased prion diseases exist and scientists are always searching for an unknown variant. Now, a new prion disease has been discovered in dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius) in the Ouargla region of Algeria[1].

The neurological symptoms observed in the dromedaries, reminiscent of those of the Mad Cow disease, have made the researchers suspect that it could be a prion disease. The new disease has been called Camel Prion Disease. The relatively high frequency of the disease and the involvement of the lymphoreticular system suggest that it is a transmissible disease among the animals and widespread in the region. Further investigations will be necessary to verify the possible spread of this disease in other areas of Algeria and in other countries.
The discovery of a new prion disease in an animal species of economic interest and food in large areas of the planet raises important questions of public health and food safety. The breeding of dromedaries is widespread throughout North and Central Africa, as well as in the Middle East, Asia and Australia, and is an important component in the economy of many populations. In many areas dromedaries are used for the production of milk and meat for human consumption.

Beyond the implications of animal health and public health, the discovery of a new prion disease has an indisputable scientific interest for the peculiarity of the agents responsible for this group of diseases and because the pathogenetic model of prion diseases has recently found wide and promising areas of application to human diseases of great interest such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

[1] Babelhadj et al: Prion Disease in Dromedary Camels, Algeria in Emerging Infectious Diseases – 2018. See here.

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