Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Infectious Prions & the Mad Munchies

During my visit to the fantastic Eastwood High School in Glasgow I was asked an interesting question by a Zombiology student. Why aren’t infectious prions broken down in the stomach?

Those of you aware of my Zombieism research will know my focus has been on how a prion disease similar to Kuru or variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease could bring about Zombieism.

Most of you will also be familiar with the theory that vCJD or the ‘human form of mad cow disease’ was brought about by eating BSE infected animal products. The same goes for Kuru; it was widely spread by the practice of cannibalism.

So why are our super strong stomachs not as capable of coping with these infectious prions as they are with jalapenos?

Well the normal form of the prion protein is produced naturally in all mammals and is harmless. However altered forms of these prion proteins can become infectious agents. Usually when a foreign agent enters our bodies, through ingestion or otherwise, our immune system recognises it as a threat and attacks it.

Prickly prions appear however to be masters of disguise. It may be that they are absorbed through the gut wall where they then pass themselves off to the immune as something helpful to the body. Once inside they begin to multiply at lymphoid sites and start the journey through the nervous system to the brain.

So the reason that infectious prions aren’t broken down in our body is because our immune system doesn’t recognise them as a threat.

Rogue prions are resistant wee beasties, bear in mind with acquired cases of Kuru & vCJD infected meat would have been cooked thoroughly first. This also demonstrates why a flame-thrower is probably the worst weapon for a zombie outbreak and why the best is still science.   
 Check out this great wee website for more on prions:

Doctor Austin ZITS BSz MSz DPep is head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies and Zombiologist Royal to Her Majesty the Queen

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