Two cases of Omicron variant detected in Canada, govt says

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‘Likely infectious agent’ is similar to mad cow disease and can cause spleen cancer

Two cases of Omicron variant detected in Canada, govt says

Two patients in Canada have been diagnosed with rare types of cancer caused by a transmissible human anisotropic agent – a piece of bacteria, or other microbe, similar to mad cow disease.

Canadian health officials confirmed the cases on Friday but provided few other details, including the type of the cancer, where it was diagnosed, the patients’ ages or the country where they live.

Another patient in New Brunswick, Canada, has been diagnosed with a mesothelioma, a type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos, and is in remission, according to the facility’s public information officer, Charlotte Marston.

By comparison, the most common type of cancer related to human anisotropic agents is MERS, an respiratory illness that is also known as Middle East respiratory syndrome.

“Although two patients were identified, both had similar illness,” Marston said in an email.

The typical incubation period for cases of the rare strain of cancer is about four to 10 years, Canadian health officials said.

The cases were found to be Omicron variant “likely infectious agent”, said Dr. Dan Woodcock, director of the National Centre for Infectious Diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The presence of the specific type of anisotropic agent in the two cases was confirmed by eight pathologists, including Canadian and US experts.

More information about the origins of the cases and how they are related may be released later, he said.

Woodcock said several types of humans anisotropic agents have been identified, with all but the two cases of MERS being associated with contact with meat. He cited illnesses linked to the common bacterium enterobacter, plague, plague-causing flies and human anisotropic agent acellular listeria.

The latest two patients likely had their cancers diagnosed later because both had cancer in at least one other organ, such as the liver, heart, lungs or bone marrow, he said.

The cases may have been caused by contact with the same cattle in an “apparent fecal source” and a fatality was found in one of the cases, a CDC statement said.

Canadians have a high risk of contracting MERS, which is confirmed in about one in a million cases, and there are 27 confirmed cases in Canada, said Woodcock. The most recent confirmed case was in 2017, said Marston of the New Brunswick regional health authority.

No cases of MERS have been confirmed in the US, said Pamela Vogel, head of the infection control laboratory at the Mayo Clinic.

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