A neuropathologist who has examined the deaths of eight people in New Brunswick initially described as suffering from a mysterious neurological disease says the deaths were in fact due to known illnesses.
A summary of the study led by Dr. Gerard Jansen of the University of Ottawa, published this month on the Canadian Association of Neuropathologists website, indicates that the original cases were “misclassified clinical diagnoses” .
In March, New Brunswick health officials alerted the province’s doctors, nurses and pharmacists to a group of residents with an unknown and potentially new neurological syndrome with symptoms similar to those of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Jansen’s study indicates that those who died suffered from illnesses that included neurodegenerative diseases and known cancers.
He identified health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, metastatic cancer, frontotemporal degeneration, Lewy body disease, and vascular disease.
The summary notes that the group has been reported in approximately 50 cases and that eight people in this group have died since 2019. The Canadian Association of Neuropathologists denied a request for access to the full report.
Jansen and his co-authors say in the summary that they hope the results will be useful to a provincial committee set up in June to review clinical and epidemiological data from patients in the group.
Jansen has been involved in the clinical surveillance of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease for more than 30 years, which is one of a group of rare progressive neurodegenerative diseases known as prion diseases.
“During this time, he has seen all types of prion diseases pass … but also many similar neurological diseases,” the summary said.
Steve Ellis, whose father had been identified as having the mysterious neurological disease, said news of Jansen’s findings came out of nowhere.
“For two and a half years, my father has been told what he doesn’t have from two neurologists who are on the watch committee in New Brunswick. If he has a known illness, why hasn’t he been diagnosed yet? ”Ellis asked in an interview on Tuesday night.
“There are too many questions coming out of this very vague report, which the Government of New Brunswick has not told us was coming,” he said. “It doesn’t answer the questions of those who are still alive and why they are sick and why they don’t have a diagnosis.”
Ellis’ father Roger Ellis, who is being treated at a retirement home in Bathurst, turned 64 on Tuesday.
Ellis said he spoke earlier today with family members of other patients suspected of having the mysterious neurological condition, and they were very upset.
The New Brunswick government launched a website in April to inform the public of what it called “neurological syndrome of unknown cause”. Health officials have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday to discuss the status of their investigation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 26, 2021.
– With files from Michael Tutton in Halifax
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