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Millions at risk from CJD, say EU scientists
Rise in CJD cases is real -- British Medical Journal
A 21st century plague?
Tainted products dumped on poor Romania
Montana CWD: 3 of 80 elk on game farm infected
Four more mad cow disease cases found in Switzerland
USDA announces $100 million sheep relief package
US meat eaters don't want labels -- USDA
Scientist reports novel approach for brain diseases
Tainted blood acknowledged in Netherlands
Scientists fear antibiotics contaminating drinking water

Millions at risk from CJD, say EU scientists

The Guardian, Saturday January 8, 2000 James Meikle

New Scientist magazine, 22 Jan 00.
Millions of European consumers may be at risk of catching Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD), the fatal human version of BSE - despite their governments' assertions that their countries are free of the cattle disease, the European Union's most senior scientists warned in a report yesterday.

Up to 400,000 people in some member states could be exposed to infected material from a single cow if it were allowed to enter the food chain because it had displayed no clinical signs of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The EU's scientific steering committee believes that Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece and Sweden should introduce bans on the most infective parts of cattle, including brain, spinal material and intestines, while Italy and Spain should extend their measures to cover beef from all countries, not only from those known to have BSE.

Only seven countries, including Britain and France, at present operate such anti-BSE measures. In Britain all meat from cattle more than 30 months old is banned from being used in food. Even so, a handful of infected animals not showing "mad cow" symptoms are still thought to slip into food production.

The European commission has failed to introduce precautionary measures throughout the EU because some countries claim they have no BSE or that it has been evident only in imported cattle.

The new advice is likely to undermine European confidence in beef as the legal wrangle between the commission and Paris over the safety of British beef continues. But the committee, which cleared British beef for export after a 40-month ban, is worried by cross-border trade in live animals, organs, offal and processed foods. It says the risk of exposure to BSE "is not necessarily linked" to geographic incidence of the disease.

"Recent evidence suggests that in countries with a reported low incidence, the actual rate of BSE-infected animals entering the food chain is not nil," the report says. It says many people within the EU are eating potentially dangerous material contained in common meat products such as ptés and sausages.

Tests to identify BSE in cattle carcasses in its early stages do not offer reliable screening. But the removal of risky parts of animals significantly reduces the potential for infecting humans. The scientists conclude: "Failure to do this is likely to expose a large number of consumers to an unnecessary risk."

Their bleak warnings give added significance to the reluctance of British scientists to predict the eventual size of the CJD outbreak, which has killed 48 people in Britain, two in France and one in Ireland so far. Those victims are believed to have become infected before most controls were introduced in 1989, though the first death did not occur until 1995.

Extent of "mad cow" crisis not clear - UK inquiry

Reuters Financial Report Fri, Dec 17, 1999 rs Ltd.
The full health risks from Britain's costly epidemic of "mad cow disease" (BSE) are still unknown, the chairman of a long-running investigation into the crisis said on Friday.

Speaking at the final session of an inquiry which has taken evidence from 300 people, Lord Justice Phillips said it was not yet clear how many cases of CJD -- the human form of the disease -- would emerge. "The full extent of that disaster may not be clear for many years to come," he told a news conference.

He said the 48 known cases of CJD -- the deadly human Creutzfeld Jakob disease affecting the brain -- may turn out to be just the "tip of the iceberg."

The inquiry was set up in 1997 to establish and review the history and emergence of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and its human CJD form, but the final report, due this month, has been postponed until March 2000. Evidence from hundreds of civil servants, scientists and politicians, including former Prime Ministers Lady Thatcher and John Major, has been given to the inquiry, which is also examining the role played by the government in the crisis.

"Mad cow" disease was first detected in cattle in Britain in November 1986 by the then Conservative government's central veterinary laboratory. [This is one of the more enduring lies of the epidemic. BSE was confirmed in writing by this laboratory a year or more earlier. This web site has long carried a photocopy of the original 1985 memo. -- webmaster]

Three years later, after the discovery that the disease was caused by feeding meat and bone meal to cattle, the European Union banned exports of British beef and cattle born before July 1988.

Although that ban has officially been lifted, the British government is still locked in battle with France over its refusal to allow the import of British beef. The European Union this week began legal action against France over the issue.

Rash of new cases of CJD threatens beef export resumption

The Independent By Stephen Castle  in Brussels   12 January 2000 
News of Britain's first big beef export order to Europe was marred yesterday by French predictions that the UK faces a rash of new cases of CJD, the human equivalent of mad cow disease. Members of a French parliamentary delegation conducting an inquiry into food safety supported Paris's continuing beef ban, criticised British safety standards and pointed out that 48 cases of CJD have been detected in the UK as against two in France.

On a visit to Brussels, André Angot, a vice president of the committee, criticised arrangements in the UK, arguing that traceability, slaughtering and testing methods are unreliable. Pointing out the disparity in the number of cases of CJD in the UK and France, he said: "There are probably many people who are contaminated in Britain and who will show symptoms in seven or eight years or, at least, over the next 15 years."

Félix Leyzour, the president of the committee, which was set up by the French national assembly, backed the Paris government's decision to block UK beef imports. "I think the government has taken a good political decision," he said. Indications of the depth of French resistance to a lifting of the ban contrasted with the British Government's coup in achieving a big beef export order to the Netherlands.

The contract with Ven International, worth £2.5m a year, is to supply hotels and restaurants with premium beef. Officials estimate that the order will be for around 350 tons, equivalent to 700,000 steaks. The meat will be processed by St Merryn Meat near Truro, Cornwall, one of two companies licensed under the Date-Based Export Scheme backed by the EU.

Despite yesterday's success, exporters are sanguine about the prospects of recovering their former markets, particularly since France – once the biggest importer of UK beef – remains a closed market.

According to the European Commission, Britain exported 105,803tons of beef to France in 1985. Trade for that year to the EU was the equivalent of 202,500tons or £457m and a further 71,500 tons worth £63m went to the rest of the world. When the mad cow crisis broke in 1996 exports plummeted.

Another New Case of Mad Cow Disease Found In France

1/17/2000 AP
Officials have found a new case of mad cow disease in northwestern France, the Agriculture Ministry said on Monday. Officials said this was the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, most often called mad cow disease, found in France this year.

It was found in a milk cow, born in Finistere in 1994. The herd of 178 animals was slaughtered. [There is a duplication of this name between France and Spain, Finisterre (2 r's) is the NW tip of the Spanish province of Galicia (so named because it was considered the end of the known world). The cow did not originate Spain. -- webmaster]

New cases of the disease are expected to appear until 2001, five years after stringent prevention measures were taken to prevent outbreaks, the Agriculture Ministry has said. The disease has an average incubation period of five years.

France has provoked a diplomatic spat by keeping in place its ban on beef from Britain, where mad cow disease first sparked an international scare in 1996. Last August, the European Union declared that beef from Britain was again safe for import, but France has angered its cross-channel neighbor by continuing its ban. The executive arm of the European Union has started a legal case against France at the European Court of Justice.

Storage of BSE meat residue wins legal all-clear

PA News Wed, Jan 12, 2000 By Mike Taylor, PA News
Plans to store potentially BSE-infected meat and bone meal in a barn at a Lincolnshire village were given the legal all-clear by the High Court in London today. A judge rejected a move by a local resident, Rosemary Turnbull, of Station Road, Blyton, for permission to challenge a decision of the Government's Environment Agency to allow temporary unlicensed storage of carcass-rendering residue.

Mrs Turnbull had accused the agency of making a legal error in granting disposal company pH Pollution Control (correct) permission to use the barn -- about half-a-mile from her home -- while its application for a licence under the 1994 Waste Management Licensing Regulations was being considered.

But Mr Justice Jowitt said the agency had given detailed consideration to possible environmental risks and to the steps which would be taken to avoid those risks. The agency was satisfied that human health and the environment would be protected There was "no arguable case" for challenging the agency's decision, he said.

The waste material is known as OTMSMBM -- Over Thirty Months Scheme Meat and Bone Meal -- and is the residue of cattle more than 30 months old which have been slaughtered under EU Commission regulations after the BSE crisis.

The plan is to store it in the barn until it is taken to Flixborough, Humberside, for incineration.

Rise in CJD cases is real

January 13, 2000 British Medical Journal 
Extent of misclassification of death from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in England 1979-96: retrospective examination of clinical records.

The increase in the number of cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) recorded at the end of 1998 was genuine and not attributable to better awareness and detection of the disease as has been previously claimed, report researchers in this week's BMJ.

At the end of 1998, the UK CJD surveillance programme recorded a rise in the number of cases of variant CJD, but it was unclear whether this was a real increase or a result of better ascertainment of the disease.

In order to clarify whether better identification of deaths from CJD was the cause of the increase, Dr Azeem Majeed from the Office for National Statistics along with colleagues from the National Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease Surveillance Unit and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined the medical records of people aged 15-44 who had died in England during 1979-96, from neurological disorders that could have been confused with CJD.

The authors found no previously unsuspected cases of CJD in the records they analysed and say that this means the surveillance programme is unlikely to have missed a significant number of cases. Majeed et al conclude that the recent increase in cases of variant CJD is real and not due to better identification of the disease.

Human BSE may kill thousands, but it could have been worse

20 Jan 00  New Scientist.  Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (vol 267, p 23)
THE horrific possibility that millions of people in Britain will fall victim to the human form of BSE is looking increasingly remote. The latest figures suggest that the final death toll is likely to be on the scale of thousands rather than millions.

Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease in Oxford have worked with statistics on how many infected cows were slaughtered, how much infected material entered the food chain and the course of the cattle epidemic. From this, they have produced a model describing the likely course of Britain's epidemic of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the disease linked to the consumption of BSE-infected meat.

With this model, they can use figures on the number of cases in 1999 and 2000 to predict the maximum size of the epidemic. "1999 may be a bit of a turning point," says Christl Donnelly, a statistician on the team.

If 15 people or fewer died from vCJD in 1999, the model predicts that any epidemic will reach a maximum of half a million cases in total. If there is no increase and a similar number die in 2000, then it predicts that any epidemic will peak at a total of 14 000 cases or fewer. So far, nine deaths from vCJD have been confirmed for 1999, according to the national CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh. It is still too early to put a final figure on the year's toll, but the current figure is less than that reported for 1998 at this stage last year. In January 1999, 12 deaths had been confirmed for 1998, a figure that eventually rose to 17. "It's good news that we haven't seen so many cases so far," says Donnelly.

The model assumes that only a certain proportion of the population is susceptible to vCJD. All the known vCJD victims had two copies of a particular variant of the gene for a protein called PrP. This trait is shared by about 40 per cent of the British population. However, it could be that other people are also susceptible, but will take longer to display symptoms.

Comment (J Ralph Blanchfield, IFST):
How can anyone get the whole story merely by "examining medical records"? This BMJ PR regarding desk research "of medical records" by statisticians is contradicted by some real research in which medical records were compared with retrospective histopathological examination of brains. That research has been summarised several times on BSE-L and is given yet again below.

The late Clive Bruton was Curator of the Coursellis Collection Brain Bank, Dept of Neuropathology, Runwell Hospital, Essex (a large institution for the mentally ill). The collection consisted of 6559 brains collected between 1964 and 1989 from psychiatric and general hospitals across South-East England and East Anglia. His major prion research contribution was as the first-named author of the well-known paper Bruton, CJ et al (1995) "Diagnosis and incidence of Prion (Creutzfeldt-Jakob) disease: a retrospective archival survey with implications for future research", Neurodegeneration, 4, 357-368.

The paper covers the histopathological examination of over 1000 brains in the collection from patients who had been considered to have died >from "dementia". The findings are very well-known, and have been reported on BSE-L several times. In summary, the data indicated that only 60% of prion disease cases with pathologically typical spongiform encephalopathy had been clinically identified as such in life.

This UK under-diagnosis in 1964-89 in fact tied in well (as has also been pointed out here) with "classical" CJD figures in the UK prior to 1990 fluctuating around 30 per year and, after the setting up of the CJDSU, vastly increased surveillance and histopathology of the brains of all suspected cases, fluctuating around 50 per year from 1992 onward.

Opinion (webmaster):
The article reaches the correct headline but the study itself makes no sense and contradicts a large body of published research on under-counting of CJD in many countries. .

The caselist should have been salted with clinical records from known cases to show that these would have been detected. As a control, the clinical records used in the Boller study -- where 7.5% of the Alzheimer referrals had CJD upon autopsy -- would determine how many of these misdiagnoses they got right. By not validating their method in a blinded study with autopsy reference material analyzed with the best modern immnuohistochemical methods, they have created a fantasy world for themselves.

We know perfectly well from 300 familly inteviews in the US that a great many CJD diagnoses are missed, not reported, covered up, and so on -- why would Britain be any different?

Even today, without a 14-3-3, brain biopsy, or post-mortem (none of which were available for the clinical records relied on here), there is little prospect of a definitive diagnosis. Nothing can be accomplished by a paper chase.

Ironically, on the same day that this story appeared, Medline carried a very substantial article by German researchers documenting further missed cases of CJD from the late 1990's and two new forms of inherited CJD. A second article by a New York research group takes a careful look at frequently missed amyotrophy in prion diseases.

If we are still missing many cases with today's diagnostic methods, were not many more cases missed with the antiquated tools of the 1970's?

So what was the point of concocting the article? CJD politics: it is a followup on the 'compelling evidence' of last week, to plug up the last preceived holes, to make an iron-clad Establishment case for attributing nvCJD to BSE. But that was already a 'no-brainer' by mid-1995.

It is all well and good for Britain to experience a sea change in attitude. But it is too little and too late -- by 15 years.

A 21st century plague?

By Joel Bleifuss, In These Times

Variations of Britain's infamous Mad Cow disease could kill up to 13 million people. But regulatory agencies are slow to act on this data, since precautions could threaten the bottom line of the meat industry.

The scale of the public health threat posed by Mad Cow disease and other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) may not be known for years to come. In Britain, the death toll resulting from Mad Cow -- or, more precisely, its human manifestation, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) -- could be catastrophic. Here in the United States, chronic wasting disease, a TSE found in deer and elk, may pose a threat to those who eat infected animals.

No one is sure to what extent the public is at risk from TSEs, which are caused by little-understood proteins called prions. The prevalence of the disease in livestock populations is still unknown. How humans are infected with a TSE from other species is undetermined. And the disease in humans is difficult to track, since it may take decades from the time of initial infection to show any symptoms.

Mad Cow -- or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-appears to have originated from the common practice of feeding livestock high-protein feed supplements derived from rendered slaughterhouse waste, some of which was from TSE-infected animals. By recycling TSEs -- which occur naturally in mammals but are extremely rare-into the food supply, an epidemic was touched off. In Britain, nearly 50 people have been diagnosed with nvCJD, a disease whose associated prion is nearly identical to the prion that causes Mad Cow. But those numbers may be deceptively low due to the disease's long incubation period and because the victims appear to have been exposed before 1986, when Mad Cow was discovered in British cattle.

To measure the extent of the problem, for the past two years British government scientists have been performing biopsies on tonsils, one of the body parts that contains the nvCJD prion. The results have not been made public. But statements from those familiar with the studies are not reassuring. In August, John Pattison, chairman of the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, predicted that the number of people infected with nvCJD could reach millions. In December, Lord Justice Phillips, who has been heading an inquiry into the government's mishandling of the crisis, said the current cases may be the just "tip of the iceberg." And the BBC has reported that a study by the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific body, has estimated the death toll might reach 13 million.

Making matters worse, theories have emerged that some people who contract nvCJD may get it not from eating infected meat but from secondary infections. Last July, John Collinge, a member of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, wrote in The Lancet that he expected the human epidemic to "evolve over decades." He went on to raise concerns that the infectious prions might be transmitted "via blood transfusion, tissue donation, and, since prions resist routine sterilization, contamination of surgical instruments." He also raised the disturbing specter that other species of livestock may be infected. "The theoretical possibility that BSE prions might have transferred to other species and continue to present a risk to human health cannot be excluded," he wrote.

Mad Cow prions or their TSE cousins have not been found in the U.S. cattle population. (However, testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is so inadequate that such a statement is meaningless.) But a TSE specific to deer and elk, chronic wasting disease, is endemic in parts of Colorado and Wyoming and has been found on game ranches in Montana and Oklahoma. Chronic wasting disease was first observed in 1967 in captive mule deer, which were subsequently released into the wild. One theory has it that the captive deer were exposed to sheep that carry an ovine form of TSE known as scrapie, which is relatively commonplace. Another is that the deer contracted the disease by eating feed that contained rendered protein from an infected animal. In parts of Colorado and Wyoming it affects as many as 8 percent of the deer and 1 percent of the elk.

At least two young hunters, who ate and dressed deer, have come down with CJD. And a third, a young woman who had eaten venison from a deer shot in Maine, also contracted the disease. Because CJD is normally a disease of the old, the youth of the current victims raises the strong possibility that they contracted the disease through infected deer.

Paul Brown, an expert on TSEs at the National Institutes of Health, has told John Stauber, author of Mad Cow U.S.A., that deer hunters must be out of their minds to be consuming deer in areas where chronic wasting disease is prevalent. That message, however, has not gotten out to the general public. "The failure of state and federal agencies to take swift action and warn hunters about potential risks of chronic wasting disease is inexcusable," Stauber says. "The best scientific minds on this issue have failed to adequately warn the public, and in this instance deer hunters, of the deadly risks of these types of diseases."

Why the silence? One reason could be that state wildlife departments are heavily dependent on the income received from licenses for big game. The Colorado Wildlife Division maintains that chronic wasting disease does not affect humans, but advises hunters to "wear rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses, minimize handling of brain and spinal column and wash hands afterward" and to "avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes of harvested animals."

"The best available science at this time does not indicate a significant threat to human health as result of chronic wasting disease," Montana state epidemiologist Tod Damrow told the Billings Gazette. The problem is that there is no available science.

Vigorous preventive measures to stop the spread of TSEs could threaten the bottom line of entire industries (meat and human blood products to name two), which has led regulatory agencies to put the health of the industry above the public's. The federal bodies that have been entrusted with protecting the public health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, have taken different approaches to this disease and the threat it poses. Meanwhile, the USDA, which regulates animal feeding practices, continues to treat the threat as a PR problem.

One of the hunters who was diagnosed with CJD had been a big blood plasma donor, with his blood being pooled with others' and used in 121 products like clotting factor for hemophiliacs, which are sold in 20 countries. Beginning in 1993, products made from blood coming from someone with CJD were recalled. That policy cost the blood industry, including the American Red Cross, millions of dollars and was abandoned in 1998, when the CDC determined that there was no evidence that blood from CJD victims was unsafe.

On the other hand, there was no evidence that the blood was safe. In effect, the CDC was "equating absence of evidence as evidence of absence" says Tom Pringle, a molecular biologist and webmaster of www.mad-cow.org, which has become the definitive Web site on TSE. "The politics and economics of it is that they don't want recalls, and if CJD is more common that means more of the donors have it and the risk to the blood supply is higher."

The CDC has concentrated its efforts on testing those stricken with TSE symptoms for the presence of nvCJD, which is linked to the consumption of British mad cows. But anyone who contracted a TSE from exposure to either deer with chronic wasting disease or cattle infected with an American strain of BSE would not test positive for nvCJD.

"The CDC is playing this public relations game, focusing on nvCJD and ignoring the possibility that chronic wasting disease in humans resembles the type of CJD we already have in the United States and not nvCJD," Stauber says.

"The federal government and the meat industry have attempted to depict TSEs as foreign diseases, so that then journalists and the public will assume it can't happen here. But we already have TSE diseases in sheep, mink, deer, elk, humans and possibly in cattle and pigs. And we continue to engage in risky livestock feeding practices, like weaning calves on cattle blood protein, that could put us in a similar situation as Great Britain."

The FDA is being more proactive than the CDC, worried that nvCJD contracted in Britain by American visitors could contaminate the U.S. blood supply. (An import ban on British beef is already in place here.) In June, the FDA's TSE Advisory Committee voted 12 to 9 to prohibit Americans who spent six months in Britain between January 1980 and December 1986 from donating or selling blood. This policy will go into effect April 17 and is expected to affect about 2 percent of U.S. blood donors.

For its part, the USDA has failed to institute a complete ban on the practice of feeding rendered animal protein to other animals (rather than the current partial ban on feeding rendered ruminants to other ruminants). Instead, the agency has spent time preparing a secret PR strategy for when the first mad cow is found in the United States. According to documents released to the Center for Food Safety under the Freedom of Information Act, the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has put together a 27-member BSE Response Team, which will be flown to a "situation room" at BSE Headquarters -- an underground bunker in Riverdale, Maryland -- in the event that BSE is found in the U.S. cattle population. Once a case is confirmed, 24 hours will be spent giving special briefings to unnamed "select industry and trading partners." Then the public will be told that something has gone terribly wrong.

Romania said to have imported thousands of tons of embargoed beef, milk products

11/29/1999 AP
Romanian authorities are investigating how thousands of tons of banned beef and milk products were apparently imported from Western Europe during the mad cow disease embargo, a newspaper reported Monday.

According to the daily Evenimentul Zilei, Romania imported or received donations of powdered baby milk, cheese products, beef, animal fat, pet food, animal feed and cows which were banned from 1996 to 1999 by the National Sanitary-Veterinary Agency. The ban was imposed because of an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease in British cows, which researchers linked to a similar disease in humans.

`Nobody can say yet whether the imports or donations were infested with BSE... What is certain is that Romanian authorities ordered an import ban, which was not respected, the paper said. The food products came from several European countries including Denmark, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, the paper said. Britain was not mentioned as one of the countries which exported its beef to Romania during that period. Officials at the Interior Ministry and the Romanian Information Service, the intelligence network who were reported to be investigating the case, declined to comment by telephone.

Hundreds of companies and non-governmental organizations were said to have been involved in imports, the paper said. It said no West European governments had been involved in the import of banned beef.

One of Europes poorest countries, expired food and other products are sold at dumping prices in Romania. The practice became more widespread after the fall of communism when Romania began to import on a large scale. The European Union recently lifted its ban on British beef but several non-EU nations, including the United States, maintain their bans on British beef.

CWD: 3 of 80 elk on game farm carried brain lesions

By ERIN P. BILLINGS  Billings Gazette  Tuesday, January 11, 2000
HELENA - Three of 80 elk cremated last week at a Philipsburg game farm were infected with the deadly chronic wasting disease, test results released Monday confirm.

The Montana Department of Livestock said the recent test results prove state officials were correct to destroy the entire elk herd at the David Kesler game farm. Livestock officials called for the destruction of the elk in November after earlier tests showed one dead animal there carried the deadly elk and deer affliction.

"Finding that three of the elk had lesions associated with CWD is grim confirmation of the fact that our decision to err on the side of caution by destroying the entire herd was scientifically sound," said Dr. Arnold Gertonson, state veterinarian.

The discovery of chronic wasting disease at the Kesler game farm was the first documented case of the disease in Montana. Chronic wasting disease, for which there is no test in live animals, is fatal affliction to elk and deer that attacks the animals' nervous system.

The recent tests on the elk herd were conducted at a national laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and two other laboratories in Colorado and Idaho are still conducting similar research on tissue samples from the dead elk. The Kesler animals were killed by lethal injection in December and burned last week in an incinerator at the game farm. The remaining ashes from the incineration were buried at the site.

Gertonson estimated that Livestock officials spent about $50,000 destroying the elk.

Meanwhile, Gertonson said the Livestock Department will continue work with other state agencies to review current rules and regulations on game farms to ensure they are "as strict as the law and science can justify." He said no plans are currently in the works to stiffen the oversight of game farms.

Gertonson said officials plan to review and develop a plan for the game farm near Hardin, which imported animals from the Kesler operation in 1995-96 and now is under quarantine. He said it's unclear what that plan will entail, but wouldn't rule out continuing to keep the game farm under quarantine or destroying the existing animal population in the future.

Craig Sharpe, interim executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation, said it's no surprise that three of the 80 elk at the Kesler farm carried chronic wasting disease, insisting that state officials further crack down on game farms to stop any spread of the disease. Sharpe called for a halt on all movement of game farm animals, both inter and intrastate. He also said the herd at the Hardin game farm should be destroyed.

"I think sportsmen of Montana, the citizenry of Montana and the livestock industry of Montana should be angry, and angry that this has gone on for so long," he said. "It wasn't until citizens got involved and pressured the issue that the Department of Livestock took it seriously."

But Mark Taylor, spokesman for the Montana Alternative Livestock Producers, said the state handled the situation appropriately, adding that game farm operators are equally concerned about the spread of disease.

"We had a situation where CWD was found on an elk ranch and timely steps were taken by the Department of Livestock to protect not only Montana's wild herds, but domestic herds as well," said Taylor. He said calls for a total ban on the movement of game farm animals not only lacks scientific basis, but would hurt game farm operators who want to acquire new animals, breed animals or expand their herds.

Current regulations require that whenever an animal dies at a game farm that the animal be tested for chronic wasting disease. Also, the state requires that before any captive animal is imported into Montana it is monitored for the disease for at least two years.

Four more mad cow disease cases found in Switzerland

COMTEX Newswire Wed, Jan 12, 2000
Four new cases of mad cow disease have been discovered in Switzerland, according to Swiss Radio International Wednesday. The authorities said at least two of the cases involve cows born since the use of animal flour [rendered meal and bone meal] was banned in 1990.

According to earlier reports, an another 49 cases have been found until December 24, 1999. However, the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office was quoted as saying that it is still confident that the goal of eradicating the disease by the year 2003 can be achieved despite of the marked increase last year.

"The long-term trend is quite clear. BSE in Switzerland is on the decline," said a specialist at the office, adding that the higher numbers last year could be due to the new control program, more media coverage on the subject and the possibility that some cases were not reported in earlier years.

In 1990, Swiss authorities banned the use of animal fodder. This leads them to believe that cases of BSE in cows born in 1997 and after are now less likely.

Prof Jeanne Brugere-Picoux writes on 10 Jan 00:

"With BSE we detect the results of our mistakes 5 years later (mean of incubation time of the bovine disease)s. It is possible that there was under-notification of French cases in 1992 (O case), in 1993 (1 case), 1994 (4 cases) and 1995 (3 cases) after the first cases notified in 1991 (5 cases).

During these years, owners could contaminate (accidentally or fraudulently) their herds with MBM (MBM primarily imported form UK but perhaps also MBM made with slaughtered contaminated French cows) distributed to pigs and poultry. The problem of the "BAB" is also seen in UK et Switzerland and there are others explanations : vertical transmission? horizontal transmission? sporadic cases?

Systematic use of tests on brain in slaughterhouses is very important to know really the number of BSE cases in every European countries."

The French Press Agency announced on O6/Jan/00 that a case of BSE had been detected in Creuse Department (source: Ministry of Agriculture) after Christmas. This case occured in Limousine breed for the first time [It is not the first Limousine race (one case in 1996 in Cotes d'Armor]; the cow was born after the ban of MBM. Limousine cattle are supposedly fed exclusively on grass and cereals.

It appears that the reality of French BSE epidemic is far from being known, and one can wonder if it is safer to eat French meat in this context or to eat exported UK beef through the Export Scheme. It has also been announced that the AFSSA will soon give an opinion about a campaign of BSE-testing in France ( based on sampling). Some French cows brains (N= 400) reportedly have been sendt to Switzerland for some BSE-test (with Prionics test).

The French Agriculture Minister announced that two new BSE cases were found, one in Ille-et-Vilaine department the other in the Creuse Department. As per policy, both herds (respectively 157 and 184 animals) were slaughtered at the end of last week.

USDA announces $100 million sheep relief package

Thu, Jan 13, 2000 COMTEX Newswire
Acting on President Clinton's commitment to help U.S. lamb and sheep farmers, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman today announced details of a three-year, $100 million assistance plan.

"This Administration is committed to helping American sheep and lamb farmers who are threatened by a surge of low-priced, imported lamb meat, " said Glickman. "By funding production improvements, increasing promotion efforts, and helping to improve animal health, our assistance plan boosts the long-term development and growth of lamb and sheep farming in the U.S."

Last February, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled 6-0 that the recent surge of low-priced imported lamb meat causes the threat of injury to U.S. producers. The assistance package will help the U.S. lamb industry achieve sustained competitiveness, while respecting international trade obligations. The plan makes $50 million available during the first year and an additional $50 million during the second and third years for production improvements, market promotion, animal health and domestic purchases.

Here is how the funds will be spent:
-- The plan will provide $30 million total, or $10 million per year, to small- and medium-sized producers in direct cash payments tied to production practices and quality incentives that improve competitiveness.

In year one, funding would be directed to such activities as genetic selection, lambing facilities, and feedlot development or improvement. In years two and three, there will be quality incentives for production of highly desirable products.

-- In the first year, $15 million is provided for guaranteed loans to help fund new and improved building facilities as well as processing and packaging system upgrades. An additional $5 million is available in year two and again in year three for these loans.

-- The plan includes $5 million in year one and $5 million in year two for guaranteed loans to help farmers cover flock and farm improvements and operating expenses.

USDA will spend up to $10 million in the first year helping producers to eradicate scrapie from the domestic sheep population. An additional $5 million will be requested in the second year. Additional funds may be requested in the third year, if needed. [This program is a mystery - no one has the slighteset idea how to eliminate scrapie. Many scrapie eradication programs have failed in the past. -- webmaster.]

-- USDA will purchase up to $5 million of lamb each year during the three-year program.

-- In the first year, USDA will invest $4 million in efforts to increase demand and improve the competitive position of domestic lamb. An additional $1 million in the first year will fund marketing programs, including cooperative marketing, lamb yield data, wool certification and price reporting.

US meat eaters don't want labels -- USDA

January 13, 2000 AP by Philip Brasher
The Agriculture Department says there's no evidence consumers are willing to pay more for meat to have it labeled with the country of origin.

"To the contrary, if consumers do distinguish goods depending on their country of origin, strong incentive exists for industries to act without government intervention," according to a study that USDA issued Wednesday.

Some American producers have been pushing Congress to require such labeling as a way to curb imports of Canadian cattle. In addition to lobbying for legislation, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association has been working with the grocery industry to come up with a voluntary system for labeling meat.

"Beef from foreign companies is coming into the United States and essentially being laundered and sold as U.S. beef, and that's just not right," said Julie Quick, a spokeswoman for the producers group.

The USDA study, which was requested by Congress after meat processors defeated a labeling bill in 1998, said such a law could hurt U.S. meat exports if foreign countries impose a similar requirement.

USDA did not put a price tag on a labeling system. The labels themselves could cost anywhere from $500,000 to $8 million, depending on what cuts of meat the law applied to.

Processors also would have to segregate meat that enters the country to make sure it's labeled properly, and the cost of doing that "is unknown, but could be significant," the report said. There would be additional costs to USDA to enforce the law.

Meatpackers claim that labeling meat could cost the industry $1 billion a year. About 10 percent of the beef that Americans eat is imported.

Scientist reports novel approach for brain diseases

Reuters North America Fri, Jan 14, 2000 By Patricia Reaney
Scientists said Friday they had discovered a process that may lead to new drugs to block or reverse the effects of fatal brain disorders such as "mad cow disease." Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and its human equivalent Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), occur when a protein called a prion that appears naturally in the brain changes and folds in an unusual way.

More than 45 people have died of the variant form of the disease, which has been linked to eating contaminated beef, since the outbreak of the BSE crisis in Britain in 1996.

Claudio Soto, formerly of New York University and now with the Swiss biotech group Ares-Serono International in Geneva, Switzerland, said small pieces of proteins called peptides could be used to treat brain diseases.

"There is still a lot of work to be done before we can use these peptides in the actual treatment of the disease. However, this concept may represent a novel approach for the rational design of drugs that may prevent protein conformational changes implicated in a variety of diseases," Soto said.

In laboratory experiments, Soto and his colleagues used a peptide to delay symptoms in mice infected with scrapie, an illness in sheep similar to mad cow disease. Their research is published in the latest issue of The Lancet medical journal [Vol 355 issue 9199]

Opinion (webmaster): Many similar approaches have been tried in the past. It does not make a whole lot of sense that a proline-substituted stretch of peptide ["beta sheet breaker"] would both retain the necessary conformation to be competitive at binding sites and simultaneously to be of the wrong conformation for prion oligomer extension. It is not at all clear how this or related notions such as congo red could be delivered across the blood-brain barrier and cell membranes to reach their target efficiently. A clinical trial for CJD therapy is not even on the drawing boards at this time.

Tainted blood acknowledged in Netherlands

Wed, Jan 5, 2000 AP US & World
Two U.S. medical firms and a Dutch organization have offered to pay up to $2.36 million to Dutch hemophiliacs infected with the AIDS virus during blood transfusions in the 1980s, officials said Wednesday. The offer is intended to help the remaining survivors of the 130 people infected with HIV by tainted blood, said Jose Willemsen, spokeswoman for the Organization for Hemophilia Patients, or CLB.

The settlement was negotiated by the CLB and U.S. medical companies Baxter International Inc. and Aventius Bhering, formerly known as Centeon. The companies said the offer still must be approved by the survivors. Aventius spokesman Guy Esnouf and Baxter spokesman Marten Nibelce refused to give further details. Both spokesmen are Dutch representatives for their respective companies.

The $2.36 million figure represents a maximum amount and could be lowered, depending on how many patients participate in the settlement. The CLB is a Dutch volunteer organization that helped deliver the tainted blood. The organization said it will foot a third of the bill for the settlement.

It was unclear exactly how many people are entitled to the funds, since an unknown number have died from AIDS, said Willemsen. "Although a large number of them have already passed away, we are pleased that this story has come to an end," Willemsen said.

Under the agreement, victims must retract any lawsuits against the companies. The families of the deceased will inherit the payment in case of death. The Netherlands Red Cross will distribute the funds, according to Willemsen.

Scientists fear antibiotics contaminating drinking water

Sun, Jan 9, 2000 By John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent, PA News
Sewage sludge and livestock manure may be contaminating water supplies with antibiotic residues:
Pollution of drinking water and the environment by antibiotics will be discussed at a meeting of European experts in Britain next month. The conference at Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, has been organised in response to fears that use of the drugs in humans and animals is inadequately controlled.

A large proportion of the antibiotics administered as medicines or veterinary products pass out of the body in the urine. They reach natural water sources such as rivers in sewage discharges, or contaminate land when sewage sludge or animal waste is used as fertiliser.

Many organic chemicals in the soil leach or run-off into water courses before they degrade. But at present natural waters are not monitored for antibiotics by the Environment Agency. Much work has been carried out on the environmental fate and behaviour of biologically active chemicals such as pesticides, but not on antibiotics.

There is mounting concern that too little is known about the impact antibiotics are having on environmental systems and the degree to which this might affect human populations. Experts fear that environmental dispersal of antibiotics could help the emergence of drug resistant bacteria.

Dr Steve Killeen, head of chemicals policy at the Environment Agency and one of the speakers at the meeting, has now commissioned a review of antibiotics and their likely impact on the environment.

The day-long conference, which takes place on February 2, is supported by the Environment Agency and the Chartered Institution of Water and Environment Management. It will be chaired by Dr Paul Leinster, the Environment Agency's director of environmental protection.

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