Bovine spongiform encephalopathy
By Kevin Pan
By Kevin Pan
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Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (figure 1) is a progressive neurological disorder in cows that belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies1. that causes the central nervous system to degenerate. BSE has an incubation period of about four years and affects adult cattle at the peak onset of 4-5 years. Humans can be infected with this disease after eating products that have been tainted with this disease. While the exact method of transfer is still not understood, it is believed that a misfolded protein known as the prion protein in cattle is the cause of transfer. This protein is difficult to kill as it is able to survive heat, UV light, ionizing radiation and normal sterilization techniques1 It is believed that the variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is the human form of BSE, is caused by BSE. However, studies have shown a similarity between prions of BSE and TSE, but not a directly correlation to support that theory2. Symptoms of CJD are dementia, memory loss, personality changes and hallucinations.
Transmission occurs via a contaminated animal-source of proteins in cattle feed, but horizontal transmission is not the main method of new infections.
There has been a decline in cases of mad cow disease recently due to a ban on feeding cattle meat and bone meat. Besides feeding surveillance, important regulations are important for containing this disease. In England, a stringent control system was implemented that prevented any animals over 30 months to be sold as human food and animal feed5. In the United States, prevention measures began in 1989 by banning import products from nations where BSE was found. In 1997, the FDA banned ruminant-based protein supplements that were being used as cattle feed6. A USDA inspector will inspect all cattle that are sent out for consumption and any cattle suspected of having BSE are sent for further testing. Due to these stringent restrictions, BSE is prevalent in less than one infected cattle per 1 million. The largest known epidemic of mad cow disease occurred in England. 177 people died after contracting variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is believed to have been caused by eating cattle infected with BSE. In 1992 and 1993, 36,680 and 34,370 cattle died due to this disease7. In 2006, a 10 year ban on British beef was finally removed to allow for importation of British beef.