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.

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  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.

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    • 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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