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Aerosols: An underestimated vehicle for transmission of prion diseases?


Stitz, L; Aguzzi, A (2011). Aerosols: An underestimated vehicle for transmission of prion diseases? Prion, 5(3):138-141.

Abstract

We and others have recently reported that prions can be transmitted to mice via aerosols. These reports spurred a lively public discussion on the possible public-health threats represented by prion-containing aerosols. Here we offer our view on the context in which these findings should be placed. On the one hand, the fact that nebulized prions can transmit disease cannot be taken to signify that prions are airborne under natural circumstances. On the other hand, it appears important to underscore the fact that aerosols can originate very easily in a broad variety of experimental and natural environmental conditions. Aerosols are a virtually unavoidable consequence of the handling of fluids; complete prevention of the generation of aerosols is very difficult. While prions have never been found to be transmissible via aerosols under natural conditions, it appears prudent to strive to minimize exposure to potentially prion-infected aerosols whenever the latter may arise - for example in scientific and diagnostic laboratories handling brain matter, cerebrospinal fluids, and other potentially contaminated materials, as well as abattoirs. Equally important is that prion biosafety training be focused on the control of, and protection from, prion-infected aerosols.

We and others have recently reported that prions can be transmitted to mice via aerosols. These reports spurred a lively public discussion on the possible public-health threats represented by prion-containing aerosols. Here we offer our view on the context in which these findings should be placed. On the one hand, the fact that nebulized prions can transmit disease cannot be taken to signify that prions are airborne under natural circumstances. On the other hand, it appears important to underscore the fact that aerosols can originate very easily in a broad variety of experimental and natural environmental conditions. Aerosols are a virtually unavoidable consequence of the handling of fluids; complete prevention of the generation of aerosols is very difficult. While prions have never been found to be transmissible via aerosols under natural conditions, it appears prudent to strive to minimize exposure to potentially prion-infected aerosols whenever the latter may arise - for example in scientific and diagnostic laboratories handling brain matter, cerebrospinal fluids, and other potentially contaminated materials, as well as abattoirs. Equally important is that prion biosafety training be focused on the control of, and protection from, prion-infected aerosols.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, further contribution
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Institute of Neuropathology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:10 Nov 2011 13:16
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 15:05
Publisher:Landes Bioscience
ISSN:1933-6896
Publisher DOI:10.4161/pri.5.3.16851
PubMed ID:21778819
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-50717

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