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Neurologists have identified the illness as a new disorder which causes symptoms ranging from a transverse myelitis syndrome, inflammation of the spinal cord, in one patient to mild weakness, fatigue, numbness and tingling in arms and legs.The current presentation focuses on the clinical description of patients who worked at a Minnesota pork processing plant. Other cases associated with working at a pork processing plant have been reported in Indiana and Nebraska.Electrodiagnostic tests showed that the patients had damage to the nerves at the root level, adjacent to the spinal cord, and at the farthest reaches of motor nerves, near the connection with muscle."This appears to be a new syndrome of immune-mediated polyradiculoneuropathy, or more simply, a novel neurological disorder caused by an immune system response to something in the workplace environment shared by these individuals," said study author Daniel Lachance, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, and a Fellow member of the American Academy of Neurology.
But they did rule out infectious pathogens such as viruses or prion proteins as a cause. It does not appear to be food-borne or related to any illness in the pigs.