A University of Alberta research team has discovered that technology commonly used to decontaminate food industry equipment can also rid meat processing plants of lethal microbial material responsible for the human version of the ailment Mad Cow disease.
U of A microbiology professors Mike Belosevic and Norm Neumann and engineering professor Mohamed Gamal El-Din demonstrated that infectious proteins found in the brain matter of cattle can be eradicated from water treated with ozone.
The discovery could have applications in decontaminating wastewater in settings such as slaughterhouse effluents where infected neural material known as prions may be present.
Cases of human transmission of infectious prions through surgical equipment have also been documented. The ozone decontamination procedure can potentially be used to sterilize instruments used for neurosurgery, and prevent the transfer of infectious prions during surgical procedures.
Prions have been identified as source of Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting disease in animals. The human variants or these conditions are Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and Alzheimer's disease. Prions are found in the brain and spinal cord tissue of infected animals and are a grave health risk in human and animal settings.
Prions are able to destroy and can still be infectious after being incinerated at heats of 850°C. In the wild, soil contaminated by a carcass of a deer that died of Chronic Wasting Disease can remain a source of infection for many years.
The U of A research team's technique of using water treated with ozone to destroy prions is an improvement on current prion decontamination methods.