Mayo finds common thread in pork plant illnessesby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio,
Cathy Wurzer, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Researchers say more workers at pork plants have contracted a mysterious neurological illnesses.
The Mayo Clinic's Daniel Lachance is leading the research on what is causing the illnesses among workers in Austin, Minnesota, as well as in Indiana and Nebraska.
The workers all processed pig brains at the plants. Lachance says while a very specific set of people are getting sick, the research could have a wider impact.
"We're hopeful that something like this, a natural-occuring experiment of nature, if you will, will really help us get a better insight into these types of disorders," said Lachance.
There are now 24 confirmed cases of the disease, 18 of them worked at the Quality Pork Processors plant in Austin.
Lachance says the common thread among the affected workers is that they all worked in an area of the plants that used compressed air to blow pig brains out of skulls.
Lachance says one possibility is that small brain matter went airborne and got into workers' lungs, and the body's auto-immune response caused nerve damage.
- Morning Edition, 04/17/2008, 8:40 a.m.
Tom Weber serves as co-host for MPR News' The Daily Circuit.