Derj's disease, also known as exotic tissue sedimentation or miner's disease, is a potentially fatal affliction caused by long-term exposure to augumene. The disease has four stages, each with increasing health risks, though only the fourth is irreversibly fatal. The disease is characterized by deposits of augumene forming in the bloodstream and around neural pathways.
Augumene was one of the first space-based ores to be discovered and realized for its mineral potential. The ore is relatively common, easily processed, and contains a large amount of valuable minerals in comparison to junk rock. Early mining efforts were regularly conducted by hand inside pressurized asteroid settlements, allowing miners to mine outside of bulky pressure suits.
However, after several decades, it became apparent that miners who had worked on augumene asteroids were succumbing to a debilitating neurological disease characterized by exotic sediments forming in their brain and neural pathways. Testing determined that the cause was exposure to augumene dust, which was incredibly fine and could be absorbed through the lungs, mucus membranes, minor cuts and scrapes, and even somewhat through exposed skin.
Efforts to prevent the disease were incredibly difficult. The dust caked protective equipment, requiring an extensive decontamination procedure before it could be handled safely. The extra cost of the procedure and discovery of pyroxes, an ore similar to augumene without the debilitating effects, led to augumene mining becoming almost unknown. Despite this, numerous attempts to safely and cheaply mine augumene have been made, all without much success.
Even though its use is banned across much of New Eden, augumene is sometimes mistaken for regular pyroxes and has been used in construction projects as an insulator and filler material. Exposure in these situations is extreme dangerous, as proper protective gear is rarely utilized.
More recently, advances in medical science have allowed the disease to be treated if caught early enough. The first two stages can be cleared out with some measure of difficulty. The third stage can be treated to prevent progression to the fourth stage, though it can never fully be cured. The fourth stage is invariably fatal, though some treatments can prolong life and reduce suffering.
The disease is caused by the absorption of augumene dust into the bloodstream. The dust is microscopic and can be absorbed in some amounts through the skin, though it usually takes several years of exposure to the skin to cause the disease. More dangerous is absorption through lesions, the lungs, or the mucus membranes, through which augumene dust easily passes.
Once in the bloodstream, the dust acts as an attractor to calcium, phosphorous, iron and other heavy metals, and other elements. These elements bind to the augumene dust and can form clumps or crystals, which then collect along the walls of blood vessels and particularly along neural pathways such as nerve clusters, the spinal column, and the brain.
Derj's disease has four stages, each progressively worse. The first stage can linger for years, but progression from stage two to stage four can be rapid.
Stage one Derj's disease is characterized by an elevated amount of heavy particles in the bloodstream. Heavier elements tend to clump first, meaning excess iron and trace amounts of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals are the first to form sediments. Physical symptoms are minor at this stage and frequently misdiagnosed. They often mimic iron deficiency, as the clumping of iron removes it from use by the body. If diagnosed as an iron deficiency, iron supplements can be prescribed, which may speed progression of the disease.
Stage two continues the clumping of minerals in the body. By this stage, lighter elements such as calcium and phosphorous begin clumping, preventing them from being utilized by the body. This causes brittleness in the bones and teeth, joint pain, and general irritability. At this point, the sediments are beginning to stick to the walls of blood vessels.
Stage three of the disease begins once sediments have begun to form along neural pathways. The sediments form clusters and crystals along nerves, the spine, and inside the brain. The deposits are relatively minor at this stage, but are enough to cause chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle spasms, phantom pain, minor hallucinations, impaired judgment, and difficulty in controlling emotions. At this stage, deposits can form in the brain which interfere with brain mapping, which almost certainly causes corruption in brain scans and prevent successful cloning.
Stage four of the disease occurs when heavy sediments have formed in the neural pathways, especially the brain. The sediments have formed crystals, which can dislodge and cause lesions. Symptoms include intense pain, amnesia, dementia, and internal bleeding. By this point, the sediments have grown so large and pervasive that they are nearly impossible to treat. The stage invariably leads to death.
Successful treatment of Derj's disease relies on an early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Notably, the Minmatar have developed a serum against the disease. The serum prevents augumene dust from forming sediments in the bloodstream, allowing the body to slowly clear it out. Unfortunately, the serum only works for Minmatar, as they have a genetic immunity to the primary chemical agent that is not present in the other races.
Stage one of the disease is rarely fatal and can be eliminated completely through scrubbing of the bloodstream. This is done through either injection of specialized nanobots or regular dialysis treatments. Once the clumped particles are broken up, remaining augumene particles are cleansed from the blood over the course of roughly a month.
The second stage is also curable, though it is more difficult and time consuming. Breaking up of the particles must be done slowly and in a carefully monitored environment, to insure that the nanobots do not attack the patients bones or teeth. The process can be painful and often some degradation of the bones occurs, requiring regular treatments until the augumene particles are completely cleared from the body.
Once the disease has reached stage three, it cannot be cured, but it can be managed and treated. Regular treatments are done to prevent additional deposits from forming along the neural pathways, but existing deposits are usually impossible to remove. Similar to treatment for stage two, some damage to the bones and teeth can be expected, though properly done, this is manageable for the patient.
At stage four, treatment usually moves toward prevention of pain rather than attempts to prolong life or treat the disease itself. Some extremely aggressive treatments can relieve some of the symptoms, but at this point the deposits are so ingrained that they are impossible to remove.
Derj's disease can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. The test is usually only called for in at-risk cases, such as for miners and construction workers who present symptoms, meaning many who are accidentally exposed do not have the disease caught until stage two.
The disease is popularly known as Derj's disease, after the Derj Orbital Habitation. The station was constructed using augumene that had been misidentified as pyroxes, leading to development of the disease in 87% of the population. The case was reported heavily by The Scope, particularly the failure of the population to receive restitution in court due to safety waivers signed by the inhabitants. This name is most commonly found in the Caldari State and Gallente Federation.
Medically, the disease is called exotic tissue sedimentation syndrome. This is the name most commonly used in medical literature and among medical professionals. The Amarr also tend to use this name when speaking about the disease casually.
Finally, the disease is sometimes called miner's disease. It was popularly called this before the true causes of the condition were known, as miners were the primary sufferers. This remains the most common name for it among the Minmatar, many of whom suffer from it due to unsafe working conditions or histories as slaves in Amarr mining colonies.