The condition has been named progressive inflammatory neuropathy (PIN), and has so far been reported in 6 men and 6 women, all of whom complained of burning sensations, weakness and numbness in the limbs. The symptoms developed over periods of between 8 to 213 days, and in some cases progressed to paralysis of the legs. They are likely to be caused by demylination and inflammation of the peripheral nerves or nerve roots, as evidenced in 11 of the patients by various diagnostic tests.
PIN has been linked to the way in which brain tissue is harvested from the slaughtered animals. In a process referred to as “blowing brains”, a compressed air device is placed through the foramen magnum, the opening at the base of the skull through which the spinal cord passes. The force of the air ejected from the device liquefies the brain tissue, making it easier to remove.
The process generates microscopic droplets which sometimes splatter the workers. It may also aerosolize some of the brain material. According to an ongoing investigation by researchers at the Centres for Disease Control, inhalation of the aerosol causes an autoimmune response – the antibodies activated by the pig brain tissue also attack the human nervous tissue.