Pork plant ailments still unexplained
The cause of the disease afflicting pork plant workers in Austin, Minn. is still unknown the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Several experts are working to identify the source of the neurological and autoimmune ailments of at least 12 people who have worked in or near an area where the pig brain is extracted from the skull with compressed air.
Dr. Ruth Lynfield, the state epidemiologist identified the source of the problem when she noticed "aerosolization of brain tissue." The disease is thought to be acquired through the particles of brain tissue that were breathed in or absorbed through the skin.
But the cause of the neurological autoimmune reaction, in which the body reacts against itself as it would react against germs, is still unknown. Researchers do not know why the human body would react so strongly to pig brains.
The New York Times reported that "scores of tests for viruses, bacteria and parasites have found no signs of infection" and that "exposure to the hog brain itself might have touched off an intense reaction by the immune system, something akin to a giant, out-of-control allergic reaction."
Dr. Ian Lipkin of Columbia University has begun tests on blood from Minnesota patients, looking for a reaction to pig brain.
The Star Tribune reported that investigators have ruled out that the disease can be transmitted from person to person and doubt that it is some sort of foodborne illness.
The Star Tribune also reported that two other illnesses have been reported in Indiana and that Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said "it's too soon to say for sure what could be causing it."