By Marina Zhang

Studies on COVID-19 vaccines have suggested links between Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)—an incurable and fatal prion disease—and getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

A recent French pre-print on CJD and COVID-19 vaccination has suggested that the COVID-19 vaccine may have contributed to the emergence of a new type of sporadic CJD disease that is a lot more aggressive and rapid in disease progression as compared to the traditional CJD.

CJD is a rare disease caused by an abnormal protein in the brain called a prion.

Prions naturally occur in the brain and are usually harmless, but when they become diseased or misfolded, they will affect nearby prions to also become misshapen, leading to deterioration of brain tissue and death.

The disease is incurable as once one prion becomes infected, it will continue to propagate to other prions with no treatment capable of stopping its progress.

The majority of people with CJD have sporadic CJD; they become infected for no apparent reason. However, small subsets of people are diagnosed due to inheritance.

Sporadic CJD, though occurring at random, has been linked to consumption of meat that has been infected with diseased prions, such as affecting individuals that ingest beef from a cow that has been infected.

Though the Omicron variant of COVID-19 does not carry a prion region in its spike protein, the first Wuhan COVID-19 variant has a prion region on its spike protein. A U.S. study indicates that the prion area is able to interact with human cells.

Therefore, when the Wuhan variant’s spike protein gene information was made into a vaccine as part of the mRNA and adenovirus vaccines, the prion region was also incorporated.

As part of the natural cellular process, once the mRNA is incorporated into the cells, the cell will turn the mRNA instructions into a COVID-19 spike protein, tricking the cells into believing that it has been infected so that they create an immunological memory against a component of the virus.

However, the biological process of translating mRNA information into proteins is not perfect and immune to mistakes.

A U.S. study has speculated that a misfolded spike protein could in turn create a misfolded prion region that may be able to interact with healthy prions to cause damage, leading to CJD disease.

A peer-reviewed study in Turkey (pdf) and the French preprint have identified sudden CJD cases appearing after getting the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines, suggesting links between getting vaccinated and being infected.

The French study found an onset of symptoms within 11.38 days of being vaccinated while the case study in Turkey has found symptoms appearing 1 day after vaccination.

Previous studies of CJD in cannibal groups have indicated that CJD can remain dormant after infection for around 10 years or more. However, authors of the French study have found that the CJD cases observed after being vaccinated by COVID-19 are a lot more rapid in onset.

The study identified 26 cases across Europe and United States; 20 of the cases had already died by the time the study was written, with death occurring on average 4.76 months after being vaccinated.

“This confirms the radically different nature of this new form of CJD, whereas the classic form requires several decades,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr. Jean-Claude Perez.

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