What Is A Prion

What Is A Prion

The word Prion is an expansion of‘proteinaceous infectious particle’. A prion is a nonliving agent that consists of protein and is highly infectious. The curious thing about a prion is that it is totally lacking in nucleic acid. Despite this, it self propagates, a phenomenon that is not understood till today and still confuses scientists. Like a virus, the Prion leans on its host's biological structure to reproduce.

Prion diseases are more prevalent with animals rather than with human beings. In both cases however contraction of a prion disease inevitably leads to death. In animals, the two best-known of prion diseases are a) Bovine spongiform encephalitis and b) Scrapie.

Bovine spongiform encephalitis is also known as mad cow disease and afflicts cattle. It makes the brain spongy eventually leading to death. Mad cow disease has made an appearance off and on during the last century resulting in the destruction of several hundreds of thousands of diseased cattle.There have been some instances of human death because of consumption of meat from contaminated cattle.

Scrapie is a disease contracted by sheep and cattle. Again this leads to a very painful death. The name of the disease originated from the fact that the diseased animals were driven to scrape themselves against any abrasive surface to remove their fleece.

In humans, the most commonly known of prion diseases are:

  • Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. (Mad Cow Disease)
  • Fatal insomnia
There are no known cure is to any of these diseases. That is inevitable the time this difficult to predict. Some patients die within weeks while others take many years in the course of which there is a very steady deterioration.

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What Is A Prion