Prions Found in HCG

Prions Found in HCG

I’m baaaack! I was AWOL all week – the hubby and I drove to Salinas, CA to attend my mother-in-law’s funeral. Obviously, it wasn’t much of a break, although we did treat ourselves to a mood brightener… on the return trip, we stayed on the Delta King in Old Sacramento and spent a few hours roaming around our old stomping grounds (FYI: we lived in Sacto for 15+ years). That part, at least, was pretty cool.

At any rate, I had a lot of catching up to do on my return… which included catching up with the news. And this post by obesity researcher Travis Saunders contained some interesting – and disquieting – news indeed. According to a new study published in PlosOne, there may be prions – not unlike the kind that cause Mad Cow Disease – in HCG.

Here’s Travis’ description:

So when it comes to body weight, it seems pretty clear that hCG is nothing but a placebo. An expensive placebo that is obtained by misleading pregnant women into donating their urine, but a placebo nonetheless.  It couldn’t get any worse for proponents of hCG for weight loss, right?

Actually, it could.

It turns out that urine-derived fertility treatments like hCG could transmit prions, the misfolded proteins responsible for brain-wasting diseases like mad cow disease, and it’s human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

These findings come from a paper published in PLoS One earlier this week.  As I mentioned in passing up above, hCG and other gonadotropin hormones are derived from the urine of pregnant women to be used as a legitimate fertility treatment.  In this new paper Alain Van Dorsselaer and colleagues examined hCG and these other urine-derived treatments for the presence of non-gonadotropin protein.  They found that prion protein was a major source of non-gonadotropin protein in urine-derived hCG.  In other words, prions have made their way from the donors into the hCG.

Is it a cause for panic? No… certainly not yet, at any rate. For one thing, there are no known cases of prion-associated illness linked to either fertility treatments or HCG injections for weight loss. And for another: this finding has yet to be replicated. But it is, as Travis indicates, a potential concern. A lot of commercial HCG is human-derived, and is pooled from thousands of donors. As such, the potential for disease transmission certainly exists.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.


  1. Just another reason why diet and exercise are the best perscription for weight loss.

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your mother-in-law. Glad to hear you could revisit some of your old stomping grounds.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks. My mother-in-law was 95, and had been slipping – mentally and physically – for years, so it was not unexpected. Still, it was a somber occasion, so hanging in Sac helped to lift our spirits a bit.

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