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Prion Diseases

The mission of the Prion Diseases Program, led by Dr. Michael Coulthart, is to assess and mitigate risks to the health of Canadians from prion diseases, through surveillance, reference services, research and education. These fatal neurological diseases are caused by novel transmissible agents called prions, that are not conventional viruses or bacteria but rather are composed of an abnormal form of a host protein. This key biological fact, which presents a number of unusual and difficult challenges for public health, is also responsible for the uniquely comprehensive approach that this program takes to its core activities. These activities include:

  • National surveillance of human prion diseases e.g., Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)
  • Laboratory reference services for CJD
  • Scientific research and technical development in prion diseases
  • Public and professional education about prion diseases

For additional information on prion diseases, please see the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease website on Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).