Mad Cow Disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is a fatal illness that occurs in the central nervous system of cattle. In 1986, BSE was first diagnosed in Great Britain. The source of BSE has been linked to cattle being feed inedible remains from cows, that already harbored the mad cow disease agent, which was used to produce high — protein supplement. The supplements included parts of the infected brains and spinal cords or animal byproducts. Federal regulations have stopped the beef processors from using brains or spinal cords to make these food products. Symptom that develop in cattle that have BSE, are linked to the deterioration of the nervous system, that leads to erratic behavior, abnormal posture, weight loss, and eventual death. A malformed protein called Prion, which is found in BSE, which leads to a sponge — like holes in the brain, referred to as ‘spongiform.’ The Prions are self — replicating proteins that contaminate neighboring protein cells. The BSE can only be verified, by a post mortem testing of the brain. The incubation period for cattle is two to eight years, which is major concern to retrace the source of the original bad feed, and if other cattle had consumed the same substance. The safest method to avoid BSE: Feed cattle with grass and forage using organic farming.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is transmitted to people that eat the infected meat, that came from a cow. Any person that eats the infected meat can get the human form, of the disease, called Creutzfeldt – Jakob or CJD. The chance of contracting this disease is one in a million people. Symptoms in humans include: Impaired muscular coordination, impaired memory, judgment, vision, and possible depression or insomnia. Eventually symptoms worsen to include lose the ability to speak, enter a coma and die. Most cases of CJD have been diagnosed in people, between 55 to 75 years old. Evidence suggests may take 10 to 40 years until the symptoms of CJD appear. Once someone gets CJD, life expectancy is six to twelve months. Since October 200, 80 people in Britain have died of CJD, and five people in France have been infected. There is no known vaccine present. There has been 155 confirmed, and probably cases of CJD world wide, among hundreds of thousands of people that may have consumed contaminated BSE beef products.
Since 1989, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has banned the importation of cattle, sheep, and goats from countries that have a high risk of BSE. Furthermore, in January 2004, the USDA issued new rules, and regulation to safeguard against BSE. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits certain cattle to be sold for human consumption or cosmetics, for the following reasons: Cattle material from a non — ambulatory, disabled cattle, organs from cattle thirty months of age or older (which are more likely to contain Prions), tonsils and small intestines of any aged cattle, cattle material mechanically separated (prevent any BSE material from contaminating other cattle material), and no cattle material that has not undergone inspection. FDA requires food and cosmetic manufactures to maintain records relevant, to their compliance, and prohibitions. The first known positive case of BSE, in the United States was found in December 2003, in the state of Washington. The cow had been imported from Canada, and had been fed the animal protein, at the time was not illegal. Once BSE is identified, then animal meat is automatically recalled, preventing the meat from entering the food supply. Milk that came from a cow that is infected with BSE should be discarded. No evidence has been shown, that cows that have BSE, can transmit the disease to milk.
Japan had banned the import of United States beef, in December 2003, on concerns of mad Cow disease. The concerns where based upon, the first discovery of mad cow disease, in Washington State Holstein. However, in August of 2005, Japan partially lifted the ban on imported beef from the United States. United States provided assurance to Japan that specific grade of beef would be free of mad cow disease. Japan imports grade ‘A40 beef,’ which comes primarily from cattle aged twelve to seventeen months. Prior to the ban, Japan imported from the United States $1.7 Billion worth of beef in 2003.
United State Department of Agriculture Animal (USDA) Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) implemented an intensive national testing program, for BSE. Testing began in high – risk cattle, have a more likely chance to develop BSE. The samples are taken from farm, slaughter facilities (40 U.S. slaughter plants, that handle 85 percent of aged cattle), livestock auctions, rendering facilities, and veterinary clinics. USDA authorized twelve laboratories to conduct these tests. Any inclusive results will undergo confirmatory testing using immunohistochemistry (IHC), which is recognized internationally, as the primary standard for BSE testing or other confirmatory tests. In August 2005, the Agriculture Department announced that testing for mad cow disease, were limited to 9,200 cases, using IHC which samples of brain tissue are preserved with formalin. Further investigation by Federal food safety inspectors, determined that from January 2004 to May 2005, 1,036 meat plants either cut corners or violated regulations, aimed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease, including the removal of brain, skull, and spinal cord of cattle aged 30 months and older. These materials are considered to carry, the highest risk in spreading BSE. No contaminated meat reached consumers. Estimated 35 million cattle are slaughtered in the United States annually. The enhanced testing program could possible detect, one case of BSE among 10 million cattle. The USDA will post the test results on their Website.
In 1998, the first known test for the detection of BSE. The ‘F – 99 monoclonal antibody assay,’ which identifies Prions in the lymph and nervous tissue, of all effected species. Other types of identification for BSE include: PrioSTRIP – checks for existence of Prions, CEA French postmortem test kit available through Bio – Rad Laboratories – examines brain tissue,
Protherics – licensed by a United Kingdom Enfer Scientific – examines spinal cord tissue using a postmortem test, and EG & G Wallace (Gaithersburg, MD), Western blot test – can detect mad cow disease at an early stage (commonly used in Europe and Japan), and other tests available.
Scientists at New York University of Medicine have created the first known vaccine that can delay, and possibly prevent onset of brain disease in mice, which is similar to mad cow disease, caused by infectious Prions. Between November 16 – 17 2005: Scientists will meet at the IBC Life Sciences Second Annual Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE), conference at Hyatt Regency in Reson, Virginia. The conference will be discussing, updating, stratifying, and discovering new methods to detect Prion proteins.