Women who are injected with urine-derived fertility products may be at risk of developing prion disease, according to a just-released study by an international research team from Canada, France and the United States.
The study, published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE, for the first time documents the presence of prion protein in urinary-derived fertility products. Prion protein is naturally found in the human body in a harmless form, but is the major constituent of infectious prions in an aggregated misfolded form. Prions are the infectious agents responsible for such transmissible and fatal neurodegenerative diseases as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as “mad cow disease,” in cattle.
More than 300,000 women in Canada and the United States each year are prescribed gonadotropins (fertility hormones), including those that are urine-derived. Although CJD has never been reported in a recipient of urine-derived fertility hormones, the study, which looked at dozens of urine-derived drug samples from various pharmaceutical companies and batches, demonstrated a previously unrecognized risk of contamination with infectious prions.