New Theory Suggests How Mad Cow Disease May Be Spread

Recently Mad Cow Disease has infected its way back into the news with the discovery of an infected cow in Texas. Now a new theory from London suggests that the disease may have come from feeding British cows with meal that was contaminated with human remains.

Mad Cow Disease belongs to a class of illnesses called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSE’s. In humans the disease is known as Kuru, Alper’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease or CJD. The disease is untreatable and always fatal. The cause of the problem is a nasty little protein, called a prion that literally causes holes to develop in the brain tissue. Since it is not really a life form, like a bacteria or virus, it cannot be destroyed by cooking or processing of the meat.

The disease was discovered in cows in Britain in 1986. A large portion of the cattle herds were destroyed there. There also have been outbreaks in Europe and a few cases in the United States. The conventional wisdom so far had been that the disease was caused by infected cow parts being ground up and added to feed grain as protein. This practice has since been banned in the United States. Still, no one really knows how the disease originated.

Now, two British researchers have come up with a theory. They believe that the origin may have come from people infected with the disease that were ground up and added to cattle feed! Researchers have long known that it is not healthy for people to eat other people, or for any species, to consume itself. There’s not much cannibalism left in the world, but in the small pockets of remote areas where it still exists, there have been documented cases of CJD.

Seems that in India and Pakistan gathering large bones and carcasses from the land and from rivers has been an important source of income for peasants. Because so many human remains are put into rivers or left out in the open, it was inevitable that some of the human bones would get mixed in with the animal remains. The material is ground up and added to animal feed for its protein content. This, the researchers suggest, may be the missing link in the disease chain. The human remains infect the cattle and then make the species jump to the humans who consume them.

Britain imported a lot of this material and put it into its feed grain in the 60’s and 70’s and this may have led to the outbreak there in the 1990’s.

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