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Killing prions with ozone

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When it comes to infectious agents, it doesn’t get much worse than prions. These misfolded proteins are highly resistant to a wide variety of extreme disinfectant procedures. They have been identified as the culprits behind mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in animals and humans, and are also implicated in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and other prion-related disorders.

But an interdisciplinary University of Alberta research team has come a step closer to finding a way of inactivating these highly infectious proteins.

The team, lead by environmental health professors Mike Belosevic and Norm Neumann from the School of Public Health and engineering professor Mohamed Gamal El-Din from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, have demonstrated for the first time that prions are highly susceptible to molecular ozone.

The discovery could have implications for decontaminating medical and dental surgical instruments or treating water and wastewater in settings where prions might appear, such as in slaughterhouse waste.

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