BSE link to humans

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July 1996:

PARIS––French government neurologists
Corinne Lasmezas and Jean-Philippe
Deslys on June 13 announced they had discovered
the first experimental evidence of a
link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), also known as Mad Cow Disease,
and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a similar
brain-destroying ailment that until recently
was considered a rare condition of age. Ten
cases of a new form of BSE occurring in
younger people caused researchers to warn
the European Union and British Parliament in
March that BSE might be the cause of CJD,
touching off a global boycott of British beef.
The French team in 1991 injected
material from the crushed brains of cattle who
died from BSE into the brains of two adult
macaques and a newborn macaque, all of
whom developed identical brain lesions in
1994 and later died.

BSE is apparently a bovine form of
the sheep disease scrapie. Cattle are believed
to have gotten it from feed supplements that
included sheep offal. About 160,000 British
cattle are believed to have been afflicted since
BSE was identified in 1986. About 400 cases
have been found in Europe. A mystery disease
attacking Dutch and Swiss cats this
spring may be related to BSE, also via offal.
The announcement of the possible
BSE/CJD link came the same day that the
French newspaper Le Monde reported that the
European Commission agricultural directorate
had on March 8 attempted to suppress findings
by the commission’s Food Science
Committee that, “The risk of human contamination
by tissue infected with BSE still
According to one involved scientist,
whose name was withheld by Le Monde,
“They wanted very clearly to prevent us from
delivering that opinion. We were told such an
opinion would worry the population unnecessarily.
But we stood firm.”
That report came just a day after the
scientific journal N a t u r e confirmed earlier
mass media reports that after banning domestic
use of cattle feed containing sheep offal in
1988, Britain doubled exports of the feed.
Germany banned imports of feed containing
offal in 1990, but Israel and Thailand
remained major buyers through 1991.
Britain is now killing about 18,000
cattle a week to exterminate all 250,000 cattle
who may have at some point consumed BSEcontaminated
feed. Disposal of the remains
has occasioned intense debate, since as yet
no one is sure how the prionic proteins
believed to cause and transmit the disease
move from one host to another, or how to
prevent transmission, since they are not alive,
unlike viruses and bacteria, and therefore
cannot be killed.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.