A group of mysterious brain diseases has affected at least 200 people in a small province and baffled doctors.
More than 200 residents of New Brunswick, Canada have been affected by the dementia-like disorder that causes vivid hallucinations, the inability to speak and write, memory lapses and even physical paralysis.
Experts say the cases date back to 2015 and are among people aged 18 to 84, dozens of whom were healthy before being struck by the mysterious disease.
One such patient is Gabrielle Cormier who, at age 20She had to put her love of figure skating on hold and drop out of university when she fell ill in 2019, becoming so debilitated that she now requires a wheelchair.
Health officials investigating the cases are investigating whether the culprit is food and water contaminated with blue-green algae blooms in water sources.
Another was heavy exposure to the herbicide glyphosate.
What began as a government-wide investigation involving everyone in 2021 ended when officials insisted in February 2022 that the cases were unrelated.
The government’s abrupt halt in its investigation into the mysterious condition suggested to medical experts that it was aiming to protect its financial interests, namely the area’s massive forestry and fishing industries.
A doctor at the center of the mystery, Dr. Alier Marrero, kept pushing for a government-led investigation and saw patients in New Brunswick showing the symptoms, recently telling Canadaland that the number of cases It had exceeded 200.
The patients were primarily in two areas of New Brunswick: Moncton and the Acadia Peninsula.
Dr. Marrero, a Moncton-based physician, was the first to detect the symptoms in patients there.
By 2018, Dr. Marrero had seen eight cases in total. The following year the total was 20, then 38 the following year. And up to 48 for April 2021. After that, the province stopped keeping track.
But patients still sought help from Dr. Marrero, who had become one of Canada’s foremost authorities on the mysterious cluster of cases.
He informed government officials in 2021 that he had just referred two new patients, one in his 30s and one in his 50s, who were experiencing progressive Alzheimer’s disease.
A barrage of blood tests, spinal taps and brain scans performed on patients revealed brain atrophy and neurological dysfunction, but not so uniformly across patients that Dr. Marrero could find a clear diagnosis.
Most of the patients experienced symptoms similar to those of dementia. Some suddenly couldn’t form words and had uncontrollable muscle spasms, difficulty moving, and fatigue.
Gabriel Cormier, now 23, experienced memory loss, vision problems and the inability to stand for long periods, forcing her to walk with a cane or use a wheelchair after falling ill in October 2019.
DREAM OF HER: Cormier says she had a passion for figure skating since she was eight years old, adding that “it was my life.” But the mysterious dementia-like neurological disease prevented him from walking independently and he had to give up skating and his time in college.
She told a Canadian news outlet in 2021: “I’m trying to make a bad situation better by making my cane pretty.”
‘The reason we went back on the track was because I was scared to death and I wanted to be on the ice one last time;
The investigation, which was looking for possible environmental toxicity as a cause, came to an abrupt halt in May 2021.
Suddenly, the notion that the case group was a group at all was called into question based on research criteria that limited participation in the ‘group’ to patients with no known diagnosis.
government investigators saying: ‘There is no evidence of a group of neurological syndromes of unknown cause.
‘Neurological conditions can be very difficult to diagnose and often individuals exhibit less common presentations of known diseases; however… people in this group showed symptoms that varied significantly from case to case and there was no evidence of a shared common disease or syndrome of unknown cause.’
The average age of onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms is in the mid-60s, and the fact that his patients were so much younger concerned Dr. Marrero.
In May 2021, Dr. Marrero wrote to officials: ‘Unfortunately, I have more and younger patients.
‘One of the most striking characteristics of our patients are hallucinations (visual, but also tactile and auditory) and the always terrifying hallucinatory dreams, which evolve until they are constant even while awake.’
At the time, there were nine deaths due to the disease, which Ottawa neuropathologist Dr. Gerard Jansen attributed to diagnosable neurological conditions, including a brain tumor and vascular dementia.
But Dr. Marrero hadn’t given up his suspicion that environmental toxins were to blame.
He discovered a comprehensive diagnostic test designed in Quebec that would measure his patients’ exposure to herbicides used in their area.
doctor marrero said the Canadaland podcast: ‘So far we have evaluated about 200 patients. Initially I myself did not know this was available and I thought they only test one substance but they actually test four.
The four herbicides that are tested are widely used in the province.
‘The vast majority of my patients show exposure well beyond the detection level to one or more of these substances, and sometimes very high. I’m talking about people who are not professionally exposed. they are not working on this [agricultural] industry anyway, and this is winter.’
The neurological condition plaguing New Brunswick residents is just one of many mysterious health problems that have plagued people with no obvious cause.
Perhaps the most notable is Havana syndrome, a condition of unknown origin that first appeared in US diplomats stationed in Cuba in 2016.
More recently, CDC researchers have focused on an eruption of rare and severe brain abscesses in children in and around Las Vegas, Nevada.
The number of brain abscesses in minors tripled in Nevada last year, from an average of four or five a year to 18.
Doctors are not sure what has caused the increase, but said it could be due to weakened immunity to infection due to covid measures such as lockdowns.