Doctors investigate mystery brain disease in Canada

Doctors investigate mystery brain disease in Canada
Roger Ellis (R) began exhibiting symptoms of the illness in 2019, says Steve Ellis (L). Source: COURTESY STEVE ELLIS
2 Min Read

Daily US Times: Canadian doctors have been coming across patients showing symptoms similar to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare fatal condition that attacks the brain. But when they took a closer look, what they found left them astonished.

Roger Ellis collapsed at his home almost two years ago with a seizure on his 40th wedding anniversary.

Mr Ellis, who is in his early 60s, was born and raised around New Brunswick’s bucolic Acadian peninsula. He had been healthy until that June, and was enjoying his retirement after working as an industrial mechanic for decades.

His son says after that fateful day his father’s health rapidly declined.

He says: “He had delusions, hallucinations, weight loss, aggression, repetitive speech.”

“At one point he could not even walk. So in the span of three months we were being brought to a hospital to tell us they believed he was dying – but no one knew why,” his son said.

Mr Ellis’ doctors first suspected Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease [CJD]. CJD is a human prion disease, a rare and fatal degenerative brain disorder that sees patients present with symptoms like behavioural changes, failing memory and difficulties with co-ordination.

One widely known category is Variant CJD, which is linked to eating contaminated meat infected with mad cow disease. CJD also belongs to a wider category of brain disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS, in which protein in the nervous system become aggregated and misfolded.

But Roger Ellis’ CJD test came back negative, as did the barrage of other tests his doctors put him through as they tried to pinpoint the cause of his illness.

His son says the medical team did their best to alleviate his father’s varying symptoms but were still left with a mystery: what was behind Mr Ellis’s decline?

You may read: Facebook’s Oversight Board to rule on Trump account ban