The Scripps Research Institute has published a study in the journal Science alleging that prions, lifeless protein particles that are believed to cause serious brain diseases, are able to mutate and develop resistance to drugs in the same way that bacteria and other living things do.
Abnormal prion proteins cause at least 20 fatal diseases
Associated with over 20 different brain diseases, prions have typically been thought to morph only once and in the presence of living transformation agents but recent research is suggesting that these proteins can continue to mutate as they transfer from host to host, becoming more virulent each time.
In the presence of infections like mad cow disease, prion are converted from their normal state into an abnormal, malignant state. As the disease gets passed around, it often becomes more deadly due to the ever changing characteristics of the prions which develop increasingly resistant to drugs.
Charles Weissman, head of the department of infectology at Scripps in Florida, remarked that prions have similar adaptive characteristics as viruses, yet without the DNA or RNA. Interestingly, lab tests showed that prions which were removed and placed into a new environment ended up out-performing those that remained in the original host. Each time prions are moved to a new environment, those that survive and adapt do so more quickly and effectively than did the ones at the original source.
Prions are normal and likely exist throughout the body. Though excited about their findings, researchers noted that the implications of their discovery reveal much about the dangers of continually mutating disease. Their solution is to investigate new drugs that can block normal prion proteins in order to prevent them from ever adapting and causing the host to develop resistance to other drugs.
Drugs, drugs, and more drugs seem to be the answer to every medical science problem in the Western world, even when the problem in question was likely caused by drugs. Similar to “superbugs” that are emerging due to overuse of antibiotics, the emergence of mutating proteins which develop resistance to drugs cannot be remedied by more drugs.
Mad cow disease is the result of feeding cows ground cow meal and other animal byproducts. Rather than pursue yet another drug to solve the problem, perhaps the best option is to reassess what cows eat and reformulate it to what is proper and healthful. The same strategy can and should be pursued with other diseases that easily morph and become increasingly virulent.