Bovine encephalopathy

Wayne F. Phillips wayne at phillips.boulder.co.us
Thu Apr 21 21:02:44 EST 1994

In <1994Apr18.130804.52291 at ucl.ac.uk> spbcnsp at ucl.ac.uk (Mr Neville Steven Percy) writes:

>I am currently on the 3rd year of a PhD in the prion field, but I've never
>heard anything connecting it with Chernobyl !!!!  I suppose Martin Leach does
>make it fit logically into the picture, though...
>The controversy over the outbreak of BSE now seems to have all been settled,
>and it is indeed down to the change in the process for bonemeal handling.
>In a large part, this was a consequence of an international slump in the tallow 
>market: the tallow obtained by using solvents to extract the fats from the
>sheeps carcasses was suddenly not worth as much; the solvent-extraction was 
>suddenly costing more, and it was replaced with simple steam-treatment.

>No one expected anything like the transmission of Scrapie to cows, Prion 
>diseases had never previously crossed the species barrier...   but it has to be
>said: no other country felt such an immediate need to cut costs as Thatcher's 
>Britain... :{  

>The incidence of BSE is now (finally) tailing off due to much more rigorous 
>feed policies, but there is a lingering 'possibility' (I'm not sure what to 
>say here... they MADE me sign it!) that vertical transmission from cow to 
>calf might occur, so the disease might be very hard to totally eradicate.

. . . 
. . .

>Everyone has been looking, especially given the parallels with Creutzfeldt-
>Jakob Disease (CJD), and the rarer diseases Gerstmann Straussler Scheinker
>Syndrome and Fatal Familial Insomnia, which give incontrovertible evidence
>of a genetic disease with basically BSE/Scrapie pathology.  No mutation has 
>ever been found in the prion-protein gene which bears the mutations in CJD,
>GSS and FFI.

>Heh, I could write this stuff all day...  but we're probably boring most people
>already!  I only get this computer access for work; it's great to be actually 
>using it for something work-related!  (:>

Actually, thanks for your very knowledgable post on the subject.

I suppose the really crucial question, given the transmission from sheep to cows,
and the presence of slow prion infections in humans, is whether the agent could
spread from cows to humans. I would think this extremely unlikely, given the
rarity of prions crossing the species barrier, and the more marked genetic
differences between cows and humans than cows and sheep.

What do you think?

Wayne Phillips                        	wayne at phillips.boulder.co.us
Boulder PTSD Center, Boulder, CO	(303)440-4599

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