Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
Over the past few years, Mad Cow Disease has been discussed at an international level due to the occurrence of numerous deaths and the United States can only hope that the disease will not spread across the country. Refer back to the last time you took a trip to McDonalds or Burger Kind to order a burger. Instead of biting into a good quality burger, the burger is infected with a deadly prion which comes from a cow which contains the Mad Cow Disease. Before the cow was diagnosed of this disease, it was butchered and sold allowing the disease to spread. Cow meat is not the only way of transmission, The Household products such as creams and cosmetic products such as lip balms and lipsticks act as active parasites to spread the disease when consumed or applied. Mad Cow Disease can affect everyone and it should be taken seriously, even if it is not common in a certain country. European countries and United States have been taking continuous precautions for the past few decades and are performing research on preventive methods to eradicate the disease.
Mad Cow Disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system of an animal and later gets transmitted on to the human body by various sources.xs Karin E. Finburg stated that BSE was first acknowledged in 1986 after healthy cattle were showing symptoms which consisted of sensitivity to sound and touch and had lack of coordination resulting in loss of body control. According to G.P Concepcion and E.A. Padlan, the mad cow disease is assumed to be caused by the consumption of disease-infected sheep matter that have also been added to the cattle feed. Scientists have concluded that there has been connection between the human and rodent sequences because both contain prion proteins. Prions are infectious agents that contain only protein with no DNA or RNA resulting in indigestion by the enzyme protease. The prion protein, which is a glycoprotein, normally has an alpha helical structure, but when it is infected or diseased it converts into a rich beta sheet. Prion diseases are unique because of the way they are transmitted. They are inheritable, they can be infectious and they can also occur sporadically (Parkhe). Since rodents were susceptible to the prion, researchers hypothesized that the ingestion of infected rodent parts, such as compost, could be a form of transportation of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to humans. Though it may seem as consumption of infected beef is the cause of BSE transmission, this disease has many routes. Prion diseases are transmitted through peripheral routes either orally or through the skin into the body. It has been demonstrated that after infection by peripheral routes, the spleen and lymph nodes are the first organs where the prions undergo replication and the disease progresses. From these organs the prions can reach the brain either through blood or via the parasympathetic nerve (Parkhe). BSE is a brain bug that has no treatment and very fatal causing tremors, loss of body function, and respiratory arrest.
Mad Cow disease isn't as common in the United States as it is in Europe, but there is a unacknowledged problem in hand. The government feels as though there are cows that have been diagnosed with BSE but they do not understand the severity of the issue. Many of the downer cows containing such a disease are ground up and fed to other animals, transmitting the BSE disease. Scientists have been warning the US for several years about the affect of feeding infected cow parts to other animals because the disease would soon transmit to humans. The food and drug administration should have banned feeding cows to cows when the disease was discovered, yet they waited till 1997 to plan a ban upon it. This ban was a complete failure because the FDA and USDA failed to prevent the feeding of downer cows, which were carriers of this disease, to other animals. Both FDA and USDA promised that this disease would not become a health problem among the Americans, but there calculations went wrong. As Michael Hansen said, “The united states should test every animal for Mad Cow Disease, something Japan does as a matter of course.” The history of Mad Cow Disease cautions the public about what happens to the health of the general public when industry takes over an organization. Even two years after discovering the first Mad Cow disease case, Ex-President George W. Bush was still blaming the government for getting in the way of business when they were trying to prevent the disease. It evidently shows that the democracy of the United States has given into the interest of the corporate over the protection of the Americans.
As stated by Science Daily, scientists, from The Scripps Research Institute in Florida, have discovered a new method that identifies infectious prions in a few months in comparison to the time lag of six months to a year putting human population in danger. Corrine Lasmezas, a professor at Scripps, states that it is important to know the difference of prions in a field and laboratory because some may be infectious towards humans and others may not. At the moment, it takes about six months to a year to identify the prion in a mouse whereas the new devised method will only take four months. Referring back to prions, it is known that they are infectious and have devastating consequences on humans. Till date, there are about 150 to 200 recorded deaths due to BSE and it will affect everyone. Since it hasn't been very widespread throughout the United States, the Americans and government must still be cautious.
To conclude, researchers and scientists have so much left to learn about the bovine spongiform encephalopathy caused by an infectious prion. BSE, Mad Cow Disease, is such a newly discovered disease that it is still under question about what it has in store for the future. Some scientists and researchers predict it will produce a catastrophic result. The United States and the government can only hope that more research and solutions are found to put a stop to this disease before more humans and cattle encounter death.
Concepcion G.P.,Padlan E.A. “Are humans getting 'mad-cow disease' from eating beef, or something else?” (2003)Medical Hypotheses,60(5),pp.699-701
Karin E. Finberg M.D., Ph.D. “ Mad cow disease in the United States: an update on bovine spongiform encephalopathy and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.”
(2004) Clinical Microbology Newsletter, 26 (15), pp. 113-118
"Mad cow is the symptom". Progressive, The. 23 Mar, 2010.
Parkhe, Amit. "Prions." Personal interview. 20 Mar. 2010.
“Scientists Devise Accelerated Method To Determine Infectious Prion Strains”.
(2009) Science Daily. 24 Mar. 2010.