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Drugs Counter Mad Cow Agent in Cells

Fueled only by promising studies of cells, a California research team has invited controversy by beginning to give a little-used malaria drug to patients who have the human version of mad cow disease.

The drug, quinacrine, is one of two that the investigators report clear brain cells of abnormally shaped proteins called prions. These are the infectious agents responsible for the neurodegenerative illness, which is called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). The second drug is chlorpromazine, commonly prescribed for schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

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