A retired technician from the Toulouse Veterinary Inrae-School died on November 4 from Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease. She had worked in a prion research lab. Research work has been suspended.
A retired employee of a laboratory of the National Research Institute for Agriculture which has a joint research unit with the National Veterinary School of Toulouse (ENVT) succumbed, at the beginning of November, to the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a very aggressive neurological condition. This technician worked in contact with biological tissues infected with prions, Explain The world, who released the information, Tuesday, November 30.
Second death in a few months
This death stunned his colleagues, especially since it is the second case to have occurred in two years. Indeed, on June 17, 2019, another 33-year-old laboratory technician, Émilie Jaumain, also succumbed in a short time to this incurable neurodegenerative disease. She allegedly contracted it in 2010, after having accidentally cut herself while handling fragments of the brains of mice infected with prions, in another unit of INRAE, in Jouy-en-Josas.
Inrae has confirmed the death of this former agent suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), whose case motivated the decision to suspend work on prions by public laboratories since July.
The agent, who had worked in a prion research laboratory, was probably suffering from a new variant form of CJD, according to Public Health France, cited by INRAE. Public Health France had listed the person as a “probable case” of CJD on its epidemiological table in September. How the Toulouse technician was infected with the prion has not yet been determined. There again, it could be that the scientist “cut herself off during her work”, either around 2004 or 2005, without the information having been confirmed by INRAE.
Public research on suspended prions
An internal investigation at the Inrae-ENVT joint laboratory was carried out to collect information on the working conditions and possible sources of exposure of this retired employee.
The retiree could also have been a victim of the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as mad cow disease), after having ingested contaminated meat or simply having contracted a sporadic form of the disease. Around 150 people die each year in France from Creuztfeldt-Jacob disease.
Since the confirmation of this new case in July, all work on prions carried out in the public laboratories of INRAE, ANSES, CEA, CNRS and Inserm has been suspended. An extended suspension since, in October, until the end of the year. This period should allow the laboratories to reassess all of their security measures, as well as a joint inspection mission commissioned by the Ministries of Research and Agriculture to make recommendations on the subject.