A medical mystery unfolds at Minnesota meatpacking plant


Feb 5, 2008 AUSTIN, Minnesota (IHT) — If you have to come down with a strange disease, this town of 23,000 on the wide-open prairie in southeastern Minnesota is a pretty good place to be. The Mayo Clinic, famous for diagnosing exotic ailments, owns the local medical center and shares some staff with it. Mayo itself is just 40 miles east in Rochester. And when it comes to investigating mysterious outbreaks, Minnesota has one of the strongest health departments and best-equipped laboratories in the country. Full Report

Be sure to read the entire article. There, you’ll find several curious items. The disease appeared suddenly — in two separate locations (Austin, MN and Delphi, IN) — in people who have been doing the same job for years without incident. The Austin plant victims fall into evenly divided numbers — six male, six female. We bring this up, because an initial cohort of human test subjects is often six male, six female. The index patient in Austin improved at home and relapsed after returning to work. This would seem odd if the underlying mechanism is autoimmune in nature. According to the article, ‘scores of tests for viruses, bacteria and parasites have found no signs of infection.’ Has the CDC looked for prions?

We’ll keep an eye on this one. For now, if you’re one who enjoys pork brains with your scrambled eggs, we recommend having the eggs alone. — PID