Neurology professionals and concerned residents in New Brunswick, Canada, are grappling with a mysterious and potentially fatal brain illness that continues to spread. This disorder, characterized by neurological symptoms such as hallucinations, muscle atrophy, vision problems, memory loss, and abnormal movements, has been steadily increasing since its discovery in 2015. Initially reported as a small cluster of patients, the number of cases has now risen to 48. However, some experts and locals estimate that the actual number of affected individuals could be much higher, potentially exceeding 200.
One particularly troubling aspect of this illness is that a significant proportion of cases involve children and young adults who do not commonly exhibit symptoms of dementia or other neurological disorders.
As of 2021, nine deaths have been linked to this unexplained illness. Despite the growing number of cases and the severity of symptoms, a government investigation into the cause abruptly concluded in 2021.
In its final report in February 2022, Public Health New Brunswick, the agency responsible for the investigation, claimed that there was “no evidence of a cluster of neurological syndromes of unknown cause.” The report authors stated that no common illness or unidentified syndrome could be identified, despite the varying symptoms among affected individuals.
However, doctors and patient advocates disagree with this conclusion and believe that the disorder may be connected to the use of pesticides in the predominantly rural environment of the province. Glyphosate, a herbicide commonly used in forestry, agriculture, and household weedkillers, has drawn particular attention and criticism.
A letter from a doctor suggested that recent laboratory tests on patients revealed “clear signs of exposure” to glyphosate and other herbicide-related compounds. The use of glyphosate may also be linked to the growth of blue-green algae blooms in bodies of water.
Moreover, phosphorus, a component of glyphosate, can stimulate the growth of blue-green algae, a type of cyanobacteria known to contaminate food and pose risks to both humans and animals.
Patient advocates argue that the actual number of cases is likely higher than 200 since some patients have tested positive for multiple environmental toxins, including glyphosate, at concentrations up to 40 times higher than the typical limit. They express concerns about the possibility that external pressures, such as from the business community, may have influenced the decision to prematurely close the case.
In New Brunswick, a determined group of patients and their families are pressuring the federal and provincial governments to launch a comprehensive investigation into this disorder.