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Has cause of Queniborough cluster been found?
FDA: one tough little regulatory agency
Which countries are really testing for BSE?
McDonald's to require US feed compliance
Comparison of epidemics: BSE vs Foot-and-Mouth Disease
BSE risk in allergy shots: FDA weighs the risk
nvCJD toll hits 95
Voices of America
Mutton processor back in business
Clinic tests breast milk for mad cow disease
CWD to cattle: definite but inefficient transmission
Casein milk protein, not bovine casings, on some tuna labels.

Scientists find cause of CJD cluster

Fri, 9 Mar 2001 BBC News
Investigators say they have traced the exact cause of Britain's first CJD cluster in the village of Queniborough in Leicester. Five people died in Queniborough's CJD cluster.

But the results will not be published until villagers themselves are told on 21 March.

An inquiry was launched last July after five people with close connections to Queniborough died from the illness. An interim report into the cases of Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (nvCJD) in November decided that meat supplied locally was probably to blame for the cluster.

Scientists ruled out baby food and school meals as the source of the infection. They also discounted drinking water supplies and the jobs done by the five victims, who all lived within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius of one another.

They said that the disproportionate death toll from the disease was unlikely to be a coincidence. The only common link between the victims was that they all ate beef or beef products, but they did not share a common butcher.

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable disease control at Leicester Health Authority, said the latest finding pointed to an extremely obvious source. He said: "Knowing what I know, it is extremely obvious. When I shared with colleagues what we had found, they said why didn't we think of that before. Like so many scientific matters, it was staring us in the face."

The Leicestershire nvCJD cluster was first reported in November 1998, after the disease claimed three lives within 12 weeks that year.

-- Glen Day, 35, from Queniborough and Pamela Beyless, 24, from nearby Glenfield died in October 1988.

--Stacey Robinson, 19, formerly of Queniborough, had died two months earlier in August.

-- A 19-year-old man died from the disease in May this year at the Leicester Royal Infirmary and at the same time health officials said it was "highly probable" that a 24-year-old man in the county had also contracted the disease.

--A fifth person, a male farm worker, died in September, last year.

Opinion (webmaster): Rather questionable to make such a claim to the press 12 days ahead of disclosure to the villagers, though it will assure that the meeting is well attended. How many other people in Queniboroug shared the same risk and are looking at the same fate?

"Extremely obvious source" -- it seems that everything conceivable was considered years and years ago. Will this be a generally accepted explanation or is it just more empty speculation? The person making the announcement has been quite aggressive all along, dramatically announcing he would solve the mystery many months ago, despite the difficulty in determining all possible epidemiological factors that might have come into play over a 10-15 year period.

Will Monk's explanation be objectively testable, say by assaying the product exposure said responsible, or would no more of it be availbable for confirmation? Possibly the victims favored some odd specialty meat product produced locally from cows outside the mainstream meat supply.

However, if the explanation is persuasive and applies to other clusters as well, it would represent a break-through. There has been no real understanding of the 95 people sickened to date and why not others among the 24 million with the met/met genetic susceptibility. Yet an explanation of a cluster might not allow the overall scope of the epidemic to be estimated; the main peak of people exposed in ordinary ways may simply come a bit later.

FDA helped downplay health risks of diabetes drug

March 11, 2001 The Associated Press
Opinion (webmaster): If FDA is willing to do this on a diabetic drug, what are they willing to do on BSE and blood safety? See second story below.

Warner-Lambert Co. downplayed liver damage concerns as it sought federal approval for a diabetes drug, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials gave the company inside information and favors at key points in the drug's development, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

Citing previously unpublicized company and government documents, the newspaper reported that Warner-Lambert knew at least 12 people had suffered potentially life-threatening liver damage during clinical trials of the drug Rezulin.

In December 1996, Warner-Lambert's vice president for diabetes research, Dr. Randall W. Whitcomb, told the Endocrine and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee of the FDA that incidences of damage were "comparable to placebo" in the studies, the Times said. In fact, 2.2 percent of the patients who took the drug had suffered liver problems, compared to 0.6 percent who took the ineffective placebo pills. "I don't think that these numbers are, are all that different," Whitcomb said in a recent deposition for several lawsuits brought against the company.

The FDA approved the drug in January 1997. It garnered $2.1 billion in sales before it was withdrawn last spring after being suspected of causing 391 deaths, including dozens involving liver damage. A message left at New York-based Pfizer Inc., which acquired Warner-Lambert last year, was not immediately returned.

FDA spokesman Lawrence Backorik said Sunday that he was "not in a position to comment on allegations concerning the conduct of the company or former FDA employees that were involved in the review of troglitizone." Troglitizone is the generic name for Rezulin.

"The FDA bases its actions on science." Backorik said. "When, in our view, the risk of approved products outweighs the benefits, FDA sees that the product is withdrawn."

The Times, citing Warner-Lambert e-mails and memos, said the company knew as early as 1993 of at least one case of a patient who showed liver damage after taking Rezulin. Last year, a consultant to Warner-Lambert who helped conduct two of its studies alleged that the firm "deliberately omitted reports of liver toxicity and misrepresented serious adverse events experienced by patients in their clinical studies." The remarks by Dr. Janet B. McGill, a St. Louis endocrinologist, were made in a letter to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Dr. John Gueriguian, an FDA medical officer assigned to examine Rezulin, told the company as early as 1994 that he was concerned about "potential toxicities." But Gueriguian's boss, Dr. G. Alexander Fleming, told a Warner-Lambert executive in 1995 that "he would ease Dr. Gueriguian out" if the executive was displeased with him, according to a memorandum from the executive.

Gueriguian was removed from the case in 1996. Fleming e-mailed a copy of Gueriguian's unflattering medical review to the company, but it was withheld from the advisory committee that examined the drug, the newspaper said.

Two days before the advisory committee meeting, Fleming e-mailed Warner-Lambert's executive vice president for regulatory affairs, Irwin G. Martin, saying "the drug looks like it ought to be on the market. Loosen up and put on a good presentation. Call if you need help."

The Times said the company also received behind-the-scenes help from Dr. Murray M. "Mac" Lumpkin, who now is being considered for appointment as FDA commissioner, and Dr. Henry G. Bone III of Detroit, chairman of the advisory committee. Pfizer Inc. said last fall that it was defending against 383 Rezulin-related lawsuits in federal and state courts.

FDA, Red Cross in minor blood feud on nvCJD

Sunday 11 March 2001  By Adam Marcus, HealthScout Reporter
Federal regulators, concerned about the spread of Mad Cow disease to the United States, are expected to announce a policy that beefs up restrictions on potential blood donors who have spent time in Europe.

At the same time, however, the American Red Cross says it will be pushing a much stricter plan that some blood supply experts fear could put unnecessary burdens on the already strapped transfusion system.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which now bans blood donations from people who spent at least six months in Great Britain between 1980 and 1996, will soon prohibit them from people who've spent a total of 10 years or more in France or Portugal since 1980 [but not Germanyh? -- webmaster] . The agency has opted not to extend the policy to Ireland, as a panel of its advisors had recommended last month.

"All of these measures are precautionary, designed to head off a theoretical risk," says Lawrence Bachorik, an FDA spokesman. The agency's policy will appear as a draft guideline in the coming weeks, and will be finalized over the next few months. The FDA will review its stance on other European countries, such as Ireland, later this year. [What about Americans who receive this blood in the interim? -- webmaster]

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is set to issue a competing policy that would bar donors who spent three months in England and a year elsewhere in Europe, says Dr. Linda Chambers, a senior medical officer at the Red Cross.

"It's a safety issue," Chambers says. "We've got the problem of a pathogen that we don't understand. It really is a judgment call what you do as you're waiting for the knowledge to catch up."

Mad Cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, first appeared in England but has since spread to several countries in Europe. The human form of Mad Cow disease, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has appeared in Britain and France. However, while roughly one of every one million Americans suffers related infections, no case of the beef-borne illness has been identified to date in either cattle or people.

Unlike standard CJD, which can take decades to cause symptoms, signs of the new variant form of the disease can appear in as little as a year or two. The brain-wasting ailments, which are believed to be caused by rogue protein fragments or possibly a yet-unidentified virus, create sponge-like holes in the brain that cause severe mental and physical debility and ultimately death.

Dr. Robert Jones, president and chief executive officer of the New York Blood Center, says his group will follow the FDA's lead in imposing restrictions to safeguard its supply from Mad Cow.

"We as an organization trust the FDA to make the correct scientific judgments about transfusion safety. The scientific evidence doesn't support any further extension into any western European countries other than France." Thus, he says, "we don't see the American Red Cross's move as being particularly productive."

In fact, the scientific evidence to this point has shown only one thing about Mad Cow in the blood supply: There doesn't seem to be any, and if there is, the risk of contracting CJD from a transfusion is probably minute. [Now the reporter is evaluating the medical literature??? Note no supporting citations are given -- there aren't any. -- webmaster]

In England, the country hardest hit by Mad Cow disease, at least 20 people were exposed to the infection by receiving blood donated by people who had the human form of the illness but didn't yet know it, Jones says. None has developed the disease. "There has been no demonstration of transmission of Mad Cow through blood transfusions," he says.

The Red Cross, which supplies about 40 percent of the nation's transfused blood, has estimated that its rigorous ban would exclude roughly 6 percent of its current donor pool.

Jones says that policy could handcuff the New York blood supply more than other areas, since the city and its surroundings are "cosmopolitan." However, Chambers says the Red Cross "fully intends" to make up for the lost blood by increasing its recruiting activities.

Reaction to the now-theoretical threat of Mad Cow in the blood supply reflects in large part on how officials failed to recognize quickly enough the risk of AIDS from transfusions. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 9,000 people contracted HIV through transfusions before testing for the virus began in the spring of 1985. But since then, and thanks to aggressive screening of donated blood, only 41 such cases have occurred. [Not to mention a similar and continuing story with hepatitis. -- webmaster]

"I think there's interest in maybe this time being much more conservative," says Chambers of the Red Cross.

Opinion (webmaster): The Red Cross is doing the right thing here: following the precautionary principle. It is hard to see how someone could spend 9 years in France and not be a risk whereas someone who has spent 10 years . Setting the UK residency time back to 3 months makes a whole lot mre sense than 6 months. FDA is setting the exclusion test not so much on science but on what New York blood centers find acceptable in terms of costs in replacing donors. That makes public health less of a lesser consideration.

FDA and bovine brain nutritional supplements

19 Jan 2001 meeting of FDA Advisory Committee, pg 500
    1		DR. BOLTON:  I have an additional question about 
	2	that.  What is the assurance that additional locally sourced 
	3	tracheas are not added into that manufacturing process, thus 
	4	boosting the yield, if you will, but being returned to the 
	5	U.S. as being produced from U.S.-sourced raw material? 
	6		DR. McCURDY:  Are there data to indicate how many 
	7	grams, or whatever, of infected brain are likely to infect 
	8	an organism, either animal or man, when taken orally? 
	9		DR. BROWN:  If I am not mistaken, and I can be 
10	corrected, I think a half a gram is enough in a cow, orally; 
11	in other words, one good dietary-supplement pill. 
12		DR. McCURDY:  What I am driving at is the question 
13	we are asked is really not do we wish to regulate these 
14	things coming in.  I think the statements about difficulties 
15	in regulating things in the future or near future for new 
16	regulations were probably accurate. 
17		But I think that we could exhibit some quite 
18	reasonable concern about blood donors who are taking dietary 
19	supplements that contain a certain amount of unspecified- 
20	origin brain, brain-related, brain and pituitary material. 
21	If they have done this for more than a sniff or something 
22	like that, then, perhaps, they should be deferred as blood 
23	donors. 
24		That is probably worse than spending six months in 
25	the U.K. 
	1		DR. BROWN:  That is exactly right.  I think that 
	2	is why the discussion has apparently been on things that are 
	3	not directly related to these questions because, in order to 
	4	think about deferrals for blood donors who are taking 
	5	dietary supplements with things like bovine brain in them, 
	6	it is very important that we know that those products are 
	7	safe. 
	8		I think we have heard enough to suggest that they 
	9	may not be....

Opinion (webmaster): This snipped from the FDA advisory committee has them fretting over blood donors who took bovine brain supplements being worse risks than travellers to Britain. This concern has not translated into any new blood safety regulations. FDA's hands are supposedly tied by the 1994 Dietary Supplement "Health and Education" Act that shifted the burden of proof on nutriceutical claims and safety away from industry and onto FDA. The agency lacks the resources and motivation to test such products.

Animals set afire as France fears outbreak

March 6, 2001 By SUZANNE DALEY NY Times

Alarm that Britain's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease may have crossed the English Channel mounted today, as French officials announced that traces of the virus had been found in sheep on nine farms in five regions.

The government quickly halted meat exports and hurried to complete the slaughter of more than 50,000 animals that had either come from Britain or come in contact with those that did. Officials called for calm, but the notion of an impending crisis dominated the news and television stations showed piles of carcasses being set alight.

Government officials said tests on sheep from the nine farms showed that the animals had produced antibodies after contact with the virus, but that does not mean that they were active carriers of the disease.

The affected animals were destroyed today, and further tests, to be completed on Tuesday, will determine whether they were carrying a live virus. "We do not know whether they were carriers of the illness," Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said today.

So far, no active case of foot-and- mouth has been found in France, or elsewhere in continental Europe. But the authorities have moved aggressively to clamp down on any possible outbreak. In France officials set up roadblocks around the farms in the districts of Cher, Mayenne, Oise, Vienne and Seine-St. Denis, in the center and north of the country. Travel was restricted, vehicles were stopped so they could be disinfected and people were being asked to step in a disinfectant solution.

Officials said they could not wait for the test results on Tuesday before acting to prevent an outbreak from spreading. The disease does not usually affect humans but can have dire financial consequences for farmers.

At a noon news conference, Mr. Glavany announced a halt to the export of meat and a 15-day ban on the movement of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses within France, unless they were being taken for slaughter. Later in the afternoon, health officials announced that horse racing would be suspended. "The situation is very worrisome," said Mr. Glavany, the minister of agriculture. "It is very worrisome in Britain, and it is very worrisome here. We are watching it hour by hour."

The day brought mixed news for Europeans who have been watching the spread of the disease in Britain with growing horror and, this weekend, saw some of their own farms cordoned off behind quarantine signs.

Denmark, Sweden and Belgium, which had all announced suspected cases of the disease on Saturday or Sunday, based on physical symptoms like blisters, were able to report that their tests proved negative. But hardly had those results been announced when officials in the German state of Brandenburg said they had sealed off a pig farm after noting possible symptoms in one of the animals.

And in Britain, the disease continued to take its toll. Officials said foot- and-mouth had broken out on another two farms, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 71. More than 400 farms remain under restrictions.

Among the affected farms is one in the heart of the Dartmoor wilderness, owned by the Prince of Wales. Dartmoor, a 365-square-mile national park, is home to about 46,000 head of livestock as well as thousands of wild deer, ponies and boars, and the confirmation of foot-and-mouth disease there raises fears that the disease will be spread by the wild animals. Britain has slaughtered more than 14,000 animals so far to halt the spread of the disease ‹ and is expected to slaughter 60,000 more. Large sections of the countryside remain closed to outsiders, with footpaths, forests and national parks off limits.

For days, Britain's European partners have been anxiously waiting to see if the virus ‹ which can be transmitted by people, cars, clothes, manure, water, hay and even the wind ‹ would jump the channel, which at its narrowest is 21 miles wide, dealing an blow to a farming industry already reeling from the effects of the mad cow crisis.

The two diseases are unrelated. Mad cow, a degenerative brain disease, is fatal to humans. Foot and mouth is a contagious virus akin to a bad cold in humans, but it can kill young animals. Milk cows that get the virus produce less milk and other animals lose weight. "For a lot of farmers this would be a very hard thing right now," said Costa Golfidis, the director of livestock at Copa, the European farm lobbying group.

Already, the crisis has hit the export markets. Bulgaria banned all of its imports of cloven-footed animals, related products and fodder from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland as a precaution. Japan imposed a temporary ban on imports of cloven-footed animals and related products from Belgium, France and Denmark. South Korea added possibly suspect meat from France, Germany and Denmark to its quarantine list.

France bans exports of animals at risk from foot-and-mouth disease

March 5, 2001 By CLAR NI CHONGHAILE, Associated Press
France banned exports of animals at risk from foot-and-mouth disease Monday after tests on nine herds showed traces of the highly contagious virus. In Belgium, tests showed no evidence of the disease in suspected pigs. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease on continental Europe: The Agriculture Ministry said it was not yet clear whether the animals in France were carriers, only that tests showed they had produced antibodies after being in contact with the virus.

But with fears growing that the disease will spread from Britain and Northern Ireland, where 70 separate outbreaks have been reported, France outlined strict new security measures that will freeze some sectors of its animal industry. Over the weekend, Belgium shut down its two largest zoos and Denmark quarantined seven farms.

"We think we must react ... in a rapid and immediate way because it is better to act when there are antibodies present in the animal and when the disease has not yet been declared," French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said Monday during a trip to the central Cher region.

It is extremely difficult to contain an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, which infects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, cows and pigs but does not pose a health danger to humans. The virus can be carried for miles by the wind, people, clothes or cars, surviving for lengthy periods on boots and clothing. It can also be spread by contaminated hay, water and manure.

Tests in France showed that animals in nine different herds contained antibodies for the virus. The animals had already been slaughtered under a government decision to kill 20,000 sheep that had been imported into France and 30,000 French animals that were in contact with the British animals. "These analyses show that these animals were in contact with the virus ... but we do not know ... whether they were carriers of the illness," Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said.

France banned all exports of live animals deemed at risk and prohibited the movement of such animals inside the country for 15 days except in cases where the animals are being taken to the slaughterhouse. Authorities took more drastic precautions within a 1.8-mile-radius around each of the nine farms. Vehicles traveling in this area must be disinfected, and people leaving the area are required to step in a disinfectant solution. The measures will last for 30 days. The affected French farms are in the Oise region, north of Paris, Vienne in central France and Mayenne in the northwest. Two cows tested in the Cher region showed signs of having contacted the virus but more results on that case are pending.

In Belgium, Agriculture Minister Jaak Gabriels said Monday that repeated tests on pigs from a farm in Dismuide, close to the North Sea, "turned out to be negative. So we have no source of foot-and-mouth disease." Gabriels said the government had lifted a ban, imposed Saturday, on the transport of animals throughout the country, but will continue to impose strict limits on access to farms. The Belgian government will continue to run tests at the farm where three of 75 pigs imported from Britain had shown blisters around their snouts.

In Germany, tests for foot-and-mouth disease on sheep at a western farm - one of three sites that had been sealed off over fears of the highly contagious illness - have proved negative, officials said Monday.

Since the first cases of the disease were discovered Feb. 19 at a slaughterhouse in southern England, authorities have banned exports of British milk, meat and live animals. At outbreak sites, herds are being destroyed, with pyres of carcasses burning around the clock.

Mainland European countries have destroyed thousands of animals imported from Britain before the export ban took effect. Ireland, France, Germany, Portugal and Belgium have imposed strict restrictions on animal transport, including border checks at airports, sea ports and highway border crossings to halt the import of meat and dairy products by travelers from Britain.

In Iran, meanwhile, three livestock locations had tested positive for the disease, the daily Qods newspaper reported Monday. The paper quoted the head of Shahroud Veterinary Center, Ali Rezvani, as saying that 30 to 50 percent of the 300 cows at the three northeastern centers were "contaminated," but that the situation was under control. He said the main reason behind the disease was unauthorized importation of livestock from Afghanistan and uncontrolled shipment of livestock in the country.

EU orders close of all livestock markets

March 6, 2001  By PAUL AMES, Associated Press
In the latest effort to contain foot-and-mouth disease, European Union veterinary experts on Tuesday ordered the close of all livestock markets in 15 nations for two weeks. The EU panel said livestock transports would be allowed between farms and direct to slaughterhouses, but all markets and gathering points for cattle, pigs and sheep would be banned.

The panel also extended until March 27 a ban on all exports of meat, livestock and milk products from Britain and said the tires of vehicles arriving from Britain to other EU nations must be disinfected. The measures are set to come into force once they are formally adopted by the European Commission, a decision EU spokesman Gregor Kreuzhuber said would come this week.

Although no confirmed cases have been found outside Britain, the new restrictions reflected deep fears that the livestock virus could spread through herds in mainland Europe. The curbs were approved despite Britain's message to the meeting that the outbreak of foot-and-month disease may be close to peaking.

"The information he gave was rather reassuring," said European Commission spokesman Thorsten Muench of a briefing by Britain's representative on the panel. "The (British) authorities expect a peak today, tomorrow or through this week." Several EU nations were pushing for tougher action. Italy had demanded a complete ban on all livestock movement across borders within the EU, but the panel of veterinary experts did not go that far.

More outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease confirmed

March 12, 2001  Associated Press
Some people are not adhering to tight restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of foot-and-mouth disease, imperiling the nationwide drive to bring the epidemic under control, Britain's chief veterinarian warned Monday. Nine new outbreaks of the highly contagious livestock ailment were confirmed Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 173, officials said.

Livestock movement has been severely restricted since the epidemic started three weeks ago. The European Union has closed all livestock markets and banned imports of meat, livestock and milk products from Britain in response to the disease. Animal transport within Britain was also sharply curtailed.

Movement by people in the countryside has been discouraged, and those who travel to rural areas are being asked to walk through troughs of disinfectant. Even so, chief veterinarian Jim Scudamore said there was "anecdotal evidence that people have gone from one farm to another without taking necessary precautions."

Sunday saw the confirmation of 25 new cases, the biggest one-day total so far. Agriculture Minister Nick Brown has insisted, however, that the outbreak is under control, despite "second- and third-wave infections" coming to light now. Prime Minister Tony Blair met Monday with Brown and Scudamore to assess the continuing crisis. The disease poses no medical threat to humans but is devastating Britain's farming sector.

Destroying herds is considered the only way to eradicate the disease, and 116,000 animals have been killed since the outbreak began. Another 40,000 are marked for culling, agriculture officials said. [The last outbreak in BritaIn saw 500,000 animals slaughtered -- webmaster]

Foot-and-mouth disease - which strikes cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows - is spread easily by afflicted animals or by carriers such as humans, horses and wild animals. It can also become airborne, though officials say it seems to have spread through the air only several times during this outbreak.

Meat from an infected animal is safe to eat, but animals that recover from the disease produce less meat or milk. [making production inefficient and not optimally competitive. -- webmaster]

The outbreak has caused tensions between Britain and the Republic of Ireland, which fears the disease will make its way there from across the border in Northern Ireland. Ireland's natural resources minister, Hugh Byrne, has sharply criticized Britain's handling of the outbreak.

France confirms first case of foot-and-mouth disease

March 13, 2001 By ELAINE GANLEY, Associated Press
France announced its first case of foot-and-mouth disease Tuesday, confirming suspicions that the highly contagious livestock disease had spread from Britain to continental Europe. Officials immediately set up a 1 1/2-mile security perimeter, limiting access to the farm in the Mayenne region, and a further "surveillance perimeter" of six miles, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Mainland Europe has been taking drastic steps in an effort to prevent the disease from crossing the Channel from Britain, where the outbreak discovered Feb. 19 has severely hurt the livestock industry. Though the disease is not dangerous to humans, an outbreak on the continent would be another economic problem for an industry suffering from plummeting beef sales and consumer panic.

Foot-and-mouth disease strikes cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, pigs and cows, and in those it does not kill it reduces the production of milk and meat. Its danger is heightened by the ease of its transmission: The virus can be carried for miles by the wind, people or cars or can be spread by contaminated hay, water and manure.

The origin of the afflicted cows in France was not immediately clear. The ministry said they belonged to a farm that is near one that imported British sheep in February The ministry said tests had confirmed the cases in the cows from a herd of 114 cattle on the farm. All 114 cows were destroyed, it said, and their carcasses were to be incinerated.

This first case "justifies all the draconian measures that we have taken over the past 15 days," Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said on French radio. "I fear that there are other cases and, at the same time, I'm doing everything to limit (the disease's spread) as much as possible." Veterinary officials had a "strong suspicion" Monday that the farm was infected, the ministry said. Overnight analysis of tests by France's food safety agency, AFSSA, confirmed it, the ministry said.

Dutch Agriculture Ministry officials held emergency talks and took inventory of how many animals have been imported from France. Potentially infected animals would be destroyed, a spokeswoman aid.

Britain halted dairy, meat and livestock exports shortly after the first case of foot-and-mouth was confirmed. More than 150,000 livestock have been destroyed or earmarked for slaughter. Five new outbreaks were confirmed Tuesday, bringing the total number of infected areas to 188. Movement by people in the countryside has also been discouraged, and those who travel to rural areas are being asked to walk through troughs of disinfectant. The head of Britain's biggest farming group said after meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday that new measures aimed at quelling the outbreak would be announced in the next two days. National Farmers' Union president Ben Gill did not specify what new measures were planned.

After tests on nine herds in France raised suspicions of the disease, France moved Monday to virtually shut down its livestock business, barring the export of animals at risk for 15 days and banning all movement of such animals inside the country, except those being taken to slaughterhouses. Horses were also banned from traveling inside France. The government had already decided to kill 20,000 imported sheep and 30,000 French sheep that had been in contact with the British animals.

Germany, meanwhile, said it was still free of foot-and-mouth disease Tuesday, after tests on suspect animals from a farm showed no trace. The farm at Damme, in Lower Saxony state, was sealed off after symptoms similar to those of the highly contagious disease were detected among 99 calves. The animals were slaughtered Sunday. An official from the state Agriculture Ministry said subsequent tests proved negative.

In Brussels, European Commission spokeswoman Beate Gminder said it was too early to talk about a ban on French exports. EU veterinary experts were to consider the issue at a meeting later.

Cull of 500,000 pregnant ewes considered

12 Mar 01 L. Times BY VALERIE ELLIOTT AND MICHAEL HORSNELL Police are removing shotguns from farmers on the brink of suicide as the UK Government contemplates a mass cull of 500,000 pregnant ewes to halt the spread of foot-and-mouth disease.Any cull would be on strict animal welfare grounds and would relate to ewes grazing miles from their home farms. But with the disease spreading in a second wave across the country, including the first infected farm in the West Midlands, emotions in the farming community are running high. By last night there were 183 cases in 23 counties....

The impact of the disease on the rural economy is also causing deep concern and Tony Blair will start a series of meetings today with rural businessmen, hoteliers and those in farm tourism. Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary, will meet ministers to discuss possible help for the tourist industry, which stands to lose up to £2 billion over Easter alone. Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, said the country was in for a long haul. There are going to be more cases and this is going to be a major disease outbreak with a long tail....

France hit by hoof-and-mouth disease

March 13, 2001 By ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press
France's vital farm belt was struck by foot-and-mouth disease Tuesday, confirming fears a disease that could deal a harsh blow to Europe's already rattled livestock industry has spread to the continent.

The United States reacted by suspending imports of animals and animal products from the 15-nation European Union, and Canada banned imports of EU agricultural products. The EU itself moved to ban exports of livestock from France as well as livestock, beef and dairy products from Argentina, where foot-and-mouth cases are suspected but not confirmed.

EU experts said they hope the outbreak found on a cattle farm in the village of La Baroche-Gondouin in northwest France will remain an isolated case. But French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany said he fears further outbreaks of the disease, which was confirmed in Britain last month and has reached epidemic proportions there. Foot-and-mouth disease spreads very easily and can be carried from one place to another by humans, animals or vehicles. Canada's import ban included used farm equipment.

Farmers in this region of verdant sloping pastures - now dotted with police checkpoints to monitor traffic - braced for the worst. "It's really catastrophic," said Louis Loroux, whose farm is 1,500 yards from the one where tests showed two cows had the disease. "If it happens here, we're going to lose everything. All of our animals will be killed." As he spoke, huge plumes of smoke rose into the sky: The 114 cows in the herd where the disease was detected had been slaughtered earlier in the day and were being incinerated.

French authorities were trying to contain the disease by slaughtering herds with suspected infections, a strategy that will likely result in higher meat prices. EU veterinary experts who agreed to ban French livestock imports resisted calls for a vaccination campaign they said could have hindered tracking of the disease because vaccinated animals carry the same antibodies as those infected.

Experts said it was too early to assess the impact of foot-and-mouth disease on meat prices and supplies. But beef sales plummeted in the EU after a rise in mad cow disease cases last year, sending beef prices down by 27 percent since October. ...

After tests on nine herds in France raised suspicions of the disease, France moved Monday to virtually shut down its livestock business, barring the export of animals at risk for 15 days and banning all movement of such animals inside the country - except to slaughterhouses. The travel ban also applies to horses, which cannot get the disease but can carry it.

Germany said it was still free of foot-and-mouth disease Tuesday, but officials urged travelers from France to avoid bringing any food across the border. Belgium imposed an immediate ban on all imports of hoofed French livestock products Tuesday. "This frightens us," said Belgian Farm Minister Jaak Gabriels. "We have to seek a common reaction together. It affects everybody." The Dutch government imposed a ban on transporting cattle, pigs and goats.

U.S. bans imports of livestock, meat from EU nations

March 14, 2001 By PHILIP BRASHER, Associated Press
The United States has expanded a ban on imports of livestock and fresh meat to include all 15 members of the European Union after a case of foot-and-mouth disease was found in France. The ban, which also applies to unpasteurized dairy products, would have the biggest impact on imports of pork from the Netherlands and Denmark. Imports of beef from the European Union already were banned because of mad cow disease.

"We want to make sure we're taking the appropriate steps to make sure it doesn't cross the ocean by means of our ports or travelers," said USDA spokesman Kevin Herglotz, adding that "if foot-and-mouth disease were to enter the United States, the cost is in the billions."

The United States suspended all meat and animal imports from Britain on Feb. 21 and ordered stepped-up checks of travelers arriving from the United Kingdom. Airline passengers who have visited the British countryside are required to have their shoes disinfected if they appear soiled. Now, travelers from the European Union also may be subject to additional scrutiny, including disinfection of their footwear if they have been on a farm.

The European Union expressed surprise that the U.S. import ban extended to all 15 member countries. "Thirteen EU states are disease-free. We have measures in place to keep it that way," spokeswoman Maeve O'Beirne said. [The key point is whether the US should have acted a week earlier given the fact that France had imported 20,000 sheep from the UK during the critical period. The same issue came up with BSE -- when the US waits for countries to declare their problem, it is too late. -- webmaster]

But Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, praised USDA's action. "Right now we just don't know how far this disease has spread," said Harkin, whose state is a top hog producer. "It is common sense to take protective measures." Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., last week urged the Bush administration to block imports of livestock from anywhere in the world, including Canada, until the department assessed the adequacy of its controls for foot-and-mouth disease.

Foot-and-mouth disease is not harmful to humans, but it spreads so quickly that entire herds and flocks must be destroyed to contain it. The virus can be transmitted by footwear and motor vehicles. French officials said Tuesday that the disease was found in cattle on a farm that had earlier imported sheep from Britain.

In addition to the ban on shipments from the European Union, USDA said it was sending a team of 40 federal, state and university experts to Europe to monitor and assist in the efforts to contain the disease. The department said it also will increase its public education efforts in the United States by installing more signs in airports, sponsoring public service announcements and providing a telephone hot line for information.

The appearance of foot-and-mouth in France sent soybean and corn prices tumbling on the Chicago Board of Trade because of fears that the disease could lead to wholesale slaughtering of hogs in Europe, depressing markets for feed ingredients. Soybean prices lost 1 percent of their value. The European Union estimated the import restrictions would affect $500 million worth of annual sales in meat and livestock. The United States estimated the impact at less than $400 million.

Chuck Lambert, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the department was acting properly. "As conditions change, they've adapted their monitoring and surveillance," he said.

Argentina confirms case of foot-and-mouth disease

March 13, 2001 By KEVIN GRAY, Associated Press 
Officials in Argentina, the world's fourth-largest beef-producing nation, on Tuesday confirmed at least one case of foot-and-mouth disease in its northwest region. A statement from SENASA, the country's agricultural sanitation agency, said the case in one cow had been found in a remote part of Buenos Aires province, a popular cattle grazing area in the Pampas region, some 250 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

The announcement came shortly after European Union veterinary experts decided to ban imports of livestock and dairy products from Argentina, citing rumors of "outbreaks in large parts of the country." SENASA said it was also investigating "various" claims by farmers in other regions of the country, but did not say how many.

The United States, Canada and Chile - all

among the biggest buyers of Argentine beef
- introduced similar bans on Tuesday. In an effort to show its serious approach to the problem, Argentina formally pre-empted those bans earlier in the day by deciding to voluntary restrict beef exports to certain markets. Last month, Argentina announced a $22 million dollar plan to vaccinate cattle herds against foot-and-mouth disease after media reports of possible cases in the countryside. The plan included vaccination of some 12 million cattle plus the heavy restriction of herd movements.

Earlier Tuesday, the EU panel recommended a ban on the export of livestock from France, where the first confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth disease were confirmed on the continent following an outbreak last month in Britain. For Argentina, the news comes as the country is grappling with a grinding 32-month recession. As mad cow and foot-and-mouth concerns swept Europe in recent months, Argentine farmers had hoped to increase exports there.

[The United Arab Emirates has also confirmed an outbreak of foot-and-mouth. Eight imported cows were diagnosed with the disease on Wednesday. -- CNN news]

Comment (webmaster):
Foot and mouth disease (FMD), as an epidemic, is a study in contrasts with BSE:
-- very short incubation period
--seldom lethal to adult animal
-- easily diagnosed
-- easily straintyped (serotype O capsid protein variant seen in 20 countries last year)
-- vaccines exist (not always effective)
-- rapid breaching of species barriers
-- conventional viral infectious agent (8500 bp genome coding 2400 amino acids; non-enveloped +strand RNA virus; in polio, rhino and enterovirus group). -- the disease is never really eradicated because pockets of endemic disease exist in poorer countries

However, FMD and BSE have elements in common. Indeed the UN seems to have a one-size fits-all statement: The U.N Food and Agriculture Organization warned: "No country can consider itself safe from the risk of the disease due to increased international trade, tourism, the movement of animals, animal products and foodstuff."

-- one country can export the disease to the next
-- it is emotionally and economically devastating to affected farmers
-- vast slaughter programs are brought to bear on untested and asymptomatic animals

Note the slaughter and embargo programs for FMD have some potential crossover on the epidemiology of BSE; the economic synergy of the two diseases is devastating for afffected farmers as well as to public perception of meat safety.

Note the disease is easily transmitted to humans, contrary to many press accounts:

Foot-and-mouth disease as zoonosis.

Arch Virol Suppl 1997;13:95-7
Bauer K
Man's susceptibility to the virus of foot- and-mouth disease (FMD) was debated for many years. Today the virus has been isolated and typed (type O, followed by type C and rarely A) in more than 40 human cases. So no doubt remains that FMD is a zoonosis.

Considering the high incidence of the disease (in animals) in the past and in some areas up to date, occurrence in man is quite rare. In the past when FMD was endemic in Central Europe many cases of diseases in man showing vesicles in the mouth or on the hands and feet were called FMD. The first suggestion of a human infection with FMD was reported in 1695 by Valentini in Germany.

All reports before 1897, the year of the discovery of the virus of FMD by Loeffler and Frosch, were not of course confirmed either by isolation of the virus or by identification of immunoglobulins after infection.

Nevertheless the successful self-infection reported by Hertwig in 1834 most likely seems to have been FMD in man: each of three veterinarians drank 250 ml of milk from infected cows on four consecutive days. The three men developed clinical manifestations.

The diseases most often confused with FMD are infections with several viruses of the Coxsackie A group (this infection is referred to as "hand and mouth disease"), herpes simplex and sometimes vesicular stomatitis.

Beginning in 1921 up to 1969 at least 38 papers were published, which described clinically manifest FMD in man in more than 40 proven cases. One further reported described an asymptomatic infection with FMD in man.

Criteria for establishing a diagnosis of FMD in man are the isolation of the virus from the patient and/or identification of specific antibodies after infection. Laboratory tests for diagnosis of human FMD are the same as for animals.

Proven cases of FMD in man have occurred in several countries in Europe, Africa and South America. The type of virus most frequently isolated man is type O followed by type C and rarely A. The incubation period in man, although somewhat variable, has not been found to be less than two days and rarely more than six days.

FDA Weighs `Minimal' Potential for BSE Risk in Allergy Shots

Saturday 3 March 2001 By Kristin Reed Bloomberg
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials want to ask makers of the allergen extracts used in allergy shots to take steps to further reduce any possible risk of "Mad Cow"disease. The FDA's expert advisory committee on allergy and vaccine products will meet Monday to discuss allergy-shot safety. The advisers will consider an FDA proposal that asks companies to replace manufacturing components that may contain material from cattle raised in countries at risk for the brain-wasting disease.

There's no evidence that allergen extracts transmit the disease, and FDA officials described the theoretical risks as "minimal"in documents prepared for Monday's meeting. The agency is weighing whether to push for added safety measures as it tries to keep the U.S. free of Mad Cow disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE.

"We are bringing this issue up because the FDA wants to minimize any possible risk of BSE from these and all FDA-regulated products -- however remote that risk might be,"said FDA spokeswoman Lenore Gelb.

Allergen extracts are used to treat people with allergies to dust mites, cockroaches, and pollen, and are mainly produced by small, closely held laboratories. Most extracts don't contain any cattle-derived material. Extracts for certain molds, though, are stored and grown in cultures that may contain bovine components.

Material in those cultures generally comes from countries certified to have no BSE risk, but in a few instances the country of origin is unknown, and that's what the FDA would like manufacturers to replace. The agency has taken similar steps with traditional vaccine makers. [March 20, 2001 will be the fifth anniversary of the announcement of 10 cases of transmission of mad cow disease to humans. Why is FDA just getting around to vaccines and allergy shots now? -- webmaster]

BSE has ravaged Europe and the U.K., where the disease was first identified in 1986 and where almost 1,000 new cases of the disease were reported each week at the height of the U.K. epidemic in 1993. BSE's ties to a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a fatal brain-wasting condition that affects humans, have raised alarm in the U.S. and Europe about the safety of beef and beef- related products. Nearly 100 cases of nvCJD have been reported in Europe and the U.K.

nvCJD toll hits 95

Mon, 5 Mar 2001 UK Dept of Health
To 2 March 2001. Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 95.
Year Referr Sporad Iatroge Familial GSS nvCJD nvCJD *nvCJD Total
 1995 87 35  4  2  3  - -  3 47
 1996 134 40  4  2  4  - - 10 60
 1997 161 59  6  4  1  - - 10 80
 1998 154 63  3  4  1  - - 18 89
 1999 169 61  6  2  0  - - 15 84
 2000 175 42  1  2  0  - 1 27 73
 2001 22  3  0  0  0  5 4  2 14
* includes 9 historic probable deaths from nvCJD where neuropathological confirmation will never be possible. The next table will be published on Monday 2 April 2001..

Last month, to 2 February 2001: Total number of definite and probable cases of nvCJD = 94. including 7 probable deaths from nvCJD where neuropathological confirmation will never be possible.

2001 11  1  0  0 0  8  1 1 11
Comment (webmaster): The English have only released 1 further case, after 6 last month, statistically implausible. Both months saw 11 referrals, historically very low. No doubt the problem is the approaching 5th anniversary of the initial announcement of nvCJD and the loss of meat exports due to foot-and-mouth disease. The incoming caseload was probably screened so that only the least likely cases were autopsied. Despite the confirmed case in a 74 year old, there is no indication at all that the elderly demented are getting into the referral pipeline.

Who is testing how many?

17 Mar 2001 assorted wire service stories, government web sites, numbers not validated and subject to confusion
Comment (webmaster): What is the emerging international norm for adequate testing a nation's cattle herd for BSE? The world is dividing up into haves and have nots, as far as adequate testing goes. The haves will capture market share and premium product lines from the have nots, as importing nations review their options. For example, "New Zealand and Australian officials are working together on a joint approach ... would mean all exporting countries would have to be certified BSE-free". [Otago Daily Times 2 March 2001]

While the whole concept of the table below is flawed (herd structure, selection, test methodology etc. differ by country), explanatory footnotes for each country remedy this situation somewhat. What is comparable are the number of positives relative to the number of tested downers, number of tested suspect cases, or number of tested clinically normal animals at conventional slaughter.

There is no central authority assembling BSE testing statistics -- it would seem the EU or UN has the resources to do this. Numbers below are not validated -- they are copied from wire service stories. A reporter might write so many tests a week, but this would be too high if numbers were really per month.

At any rate, the table is a start. France appears on a roll -- ready to reach the legendary millionth cow on Jun 01 via testing 36,000 animals per week at 48 independent labs, assuming these numbers are valid. Scientists believe sporadic and familial BSE occur at one per million in all countries as the background rate; this becomes testable for the first time with large scale testing.

Germany has an amazing program, ramping up testing in 3 months from zero to 270,000 total tests, finding many cases among preclinical animals. Switzerland is well-organized with a regularly updated web site. The Netherlands has a strong web page as well.

England has shown little interest in testing, relying largely on theoretical containment measures. This may prove unacceptable to trading partners who have gained extensive experience with their own actual BSE incidence. In the US, some industry players argue for higher testing as a way to bring an end to consumer uncertainty. Canada, a big exporter, may also want to use the Prionics test to establish a BSE-free status. Both countries will probably want to get past the hoof-and-mouth disease scare first.

CountryCattlePositives in total testsCurrent tests per week
France21M7+ in 227,700 tests first 18 days of Jan36,000 animals per week, 48 labs
Germany14M40+ in 270,000 tests from Dec 00 to Mar 0120,000 tests per week, many preclinical+
Netherlands4M5+ in 74,462+ testsstrong program, results on web
Belgium?M4+ in 54,408 tests4+ by both BioRad and IHC, some BioRad+ awaiting confirmation
Italy7.4M4+ in 32,000 testsmainly in imports
Spain 5.5M29+ in 30,000 testsonce thought not to have problem
US101M0+ in 13,000 tests50 per week, mainly downers
Swiss1.7M5+ in 12,613 testsearly to take effective response
Austria2.2M0+ 12,000 testssome risk from Germany
Croatia?M0+purchased 10,000 Prionics tests, begin April 01
N Ireland ?M54+ in 2,500 tested downers over 30 monthsmay be using Enfer test
Poland6M0+ in 700 teststo test 400 a week
Portugal1.2M522+ in ? testsmajor feed importer from UK
Greece?M0+ in 131 testssome import risk
Ireland7.5M?+ ? testsexposed early on from Britain
Canada13M1+ from 1993 import18 tests per week
Russia?M0+8 tests per week
UK11M18+ in 3900 tests, last done in 99not testing preclinical animals

Notes: Loosely speaking, about 1 in 10,000 non-clinical cows Europe-wide are positive for mad cow disease, generally assumbed to be British BSE. Selection of target animals is more or less the same in all EU countries (except UK). Clinical suspects: all should be tested; high risk groups such as emergency slaughter and fallen stock: all should be tested. (There would be a sampling problem with fallen stock in summer because of brain breakdown; clinically normal cattle slaughtered at 30 months. Most countries have started, some countries like Germany also target animals 24 months.

Finland, Sweden and Norway have not started, they test only high risk groups today. Norway should start testing clinically normal slaughter animals 30 months of age this summer.

Among the 227,700 clinically normal animals tested in France, 7 positives were detected. All of these were at least 4 years old. 2 of 7 were found in eastern parts of France, and 5 found in the "assumed higher risk region" (Bretagne Normandie Loire), the region where most of the French clinical cases have been found. In the same period (1.1.01 to 18.2.01 21) clinical cases were found. In the same period, 7 positives were found among high risk animals.

Preliminary results on 15,000 tests from last year's test programme on fallen stock and emergency slaughters gave around 1 positive per 1000, but this was animals that also came from the assumed highest risk region (Bretagne Normandie Loire). The final report on all 40.000 animals tested in this programme last year is due shortly.

Thousands of tests are performed each day, and reports of new positives are frequent, meaning the data gets out of date quite rapidly. Another problem is that age distributions of the 30 months old animals tested aren't released, rather (sometimes) ages of the animals found positive.

Technical Opinion (Marcus Moser, U. Zurich, 20 Mar 2001): None of the rapid tests has been shown to be consistently more sensitive than immunohistochemistry!! Prionics has made extensive studies comparing the Prionics-Check test to immunohistochemistry. It turned out that sampling is a crucial issue (compare our Acta Neuropathologica paper in 1999).

Correlation between the two methods is only satisfactory when the samples are taken from exactly the same brain stem obex region, which is best reached by sampling the same region on opposite hemispheres. If sampling is done this way, immunohistochemistry does not reveal more BSE-cases than Prionics-Check, and Prionics-Check positive / immunohistochemistry negative cases are rare.

Bio-Rad has not done such comparative studies, however, they have analyzed a few samples from the British pathogenesis study and were clearly NOT more sensitive than immunohistochemistry.

In Germany they had a 28 months old animal which was positive with the BioRad-test and the OIE western blot, but negative with the Prionics check as well as IHC. Tuebingen counted it as positive, whereas Belgium would count it as false- positive. Again, the issue is sampling: subsequent Bio-Rad tests were also negative. But it is obvious that the conclusion cannot be: Bio-Rad is more sensitive than Bio-Rad.

How about this example (from Germany): Positive (in double) by Prionics, and positive (in double) again upon repetition of the test. Subsequent analysis with Bio-Rad: negative. Subsequent analysis with IHC: inconclusive / very weakly positive. Subsequent analysis with OIE-Western: positive. Subsequent parallel tests with Prionics-Check and Bio-Rad: Prionics-Check was one times positive, one times negative; Bio-Rad was two times negative.

From this you could try to conclude that Prionics-Check and the OIE-Western are slightly more sensitive than immunohistochemistry and clearly more sensitive than the Bio-Rad test. However, in France there was an example of a sample that reproducibly tested positive with Prionics-Check, while negative in the OIE-Western, and positive in a subsequent immunohistochemical analysis.

So what can we really conclude from the above German case? The first tests done usually have the best chance to be adequate because they are most likely correctly sampled from obex-tissue. So the Prionics-Check had the better chances than the subsequent Bio-Rad test.

However, the Bio-Rad test still should have been positive since there obviously was enough obex material around for a subsequent slightly positive IHC and a positive OIE-Western. Both IHC and OIE-Western consume a lot of material and obviously the further tests done after IHC and OIE-Western were made with less optimal tissue outside the central obex region. This is consistent with the finding, that the Prionics-Check was now at its limit (1x positive, 1x negative) and the Bio-Rad test negative.

Does this case show that the Prionics-Check test is more sensitive in field use than the Bio-Rad test? Maybe yes, but maybe it was just bad luck for Bio-Rad. The only thing we can really conclude from the above cases is that the sensitivity of the various methods seem to be roughly in the same order of magnitude.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that very recently (long after the above discussed cases) the cutoff of the Bio-Rad test was increased in order to lower the high numbers of false positives obtained with the test. Does this mean that the Bio-Rad test is now definitively less sensitive in detecting BSE? On first sight this may be plausible; however, as PrPBSE accumulation in the brain is an exponential process and seems to happen (at least according to the British pathogenesis study) within a relatively short period of time, the statistical probability that a BSE-infected animal would be tested just at the point in time when PrPBSE would be above the old cutoff value but below the new one might be low.

In other words: even if the test has now a lower theoretical sensitivity, this might not necessary result in a significant decrease in its ability to detect BSE in the field. In fact, more important in the field might be the question of robustness i.e. whether or not the test is able to perform well with less optimal, partly autolyzed, bloody etc. samples. And certainly important in the field use is optimal sampling.

We therefore proposed a uniform sampling procedure in whole of Europe. But there comes the next problem: In the BSE-test evaluation conducted by the EU in 1999, Enfer refused to accept brain stem samples and insisted on having the test evaluated only on upper cervical spinal cord. As the Enfer test therefore has to be performed on spinal cord, we will not see uniform sampling throughout Europe.

It seems important to me that samples which test positive in a rapid test and negative in a first confirmatory analysis are further investigated with alternative confirmatory methods (I.e. perform IHC if OIE-Western is negative and vice versa). A prerequisite for such thorough investigations is that the number of false positives produced with the rapid tests are very low, otherwise the national reference centers will be buried under an unnecessary workload.

Belgium: source new food chain safety agency page lists 4 positive out of 54,408 tested. That is 4 confirmed by IHC out of 54,408 subjected to initial testing, all by BioRad. However, a fair number of initial false positives still await IHC while the number of initial tests forges ahead. Belgium, like other European countries, is shaping up to 1 per ten thousand or on that order.

Belgium testing for BSE: no Prionics testing, BioRad subject to false positives
1st Biorad at the slaughterhouse, if + then
2nd Biorad at the reference laboratory once more, if +
3rd IHC
 To be made by the animals at risk:
          Above 30 months
          found dead
          emergency slaughter
          under 12 months: the intestine
          above: the skull with the brain
                     the spinal cord
                     the tonsils
 MBM from mammals: forbidden for animal feeding, must be destroyed.
 Proteins from fish: allowed for pet food and manure.
NB: bovine tongue and oxtail are on sale in Belgium as well as in Luxemburg. Are precautions taken to separate the tongue from the tonsils?

Netherlands test results In eight weeks 74,462 animals were tested giving 4 positives of which one was an emergency slaugther and one was a clincal suspected case. Three were dairy and one was beef. On top of that 1,689 animals for destruction were tested. None was positive. A fifth case was found later on 23-2-2001 and is not in included in the numbers.

BSE testen in 2001 normal slaughter + necessary slaughter
             getest     BSE-pos.             getest   BSE-pos.
  week 1     6.967         0                   100         0
  week 2    10.215         0                    97         0
  week 3    10.753         0                    97         0
  week 4     8.558         1                    99         0
  week 5     8.838         1                   192         0
  week 6     8.803         0                   288         0
  week 7    10.093         1                   336         0
  week 8    10.235         1                   480         0

Bavaria: Mehr als 100.000 Rinder in Bayern BSE-getestet (AP 16 Mar 01) translated:

"In Bavaria more than 100,000 clinical healthy cows were tested giving 7 positives. One quarter was under 24 months and two thirds were over 30 months so less than 10% was between 24 and 30 months old.

Of the about 10,000 animals in the 24 to 30 month group one (28 months old ) was positive and in the about 66.000 animals in the over 30 months group 6 were positive.

Besides that 4,500 clinical not normal animals were tested giving 17 positives. How many were beef and how many were dairy: not specified. Almost all positives were over 49 months. One thrid was over 60 months old." .

Croatia testing for BSE

: 18 Mar 01 website and correspondence from Ignac Kulier "We bought PRIONIX from Swiss and intend to test about 10.000 cattle begining of April, 2001.. We also develop special lab for cow testing.. Knowing everything about after war cattle moving through the Balkans and many donations which came from GB it is really miracle that we are free..All countries around including Italy are infected."

"We have just 1 factory for processing slaughterhouse offals and about 250.000 tons of ready concentrates. All imports stopped last year. During critical period 1997-2000 we had imports of 43,000 cattle, but no BSE cases. Beef consumption drop 70% and we now use more fish and poultry. Frankfurters and hamburgers nobody wants to eat."

Hungary Fights Mad Cow Disease

Thursday 15 March 2001 By Greg Walters Central Europe Online
Hungary's domestic beef consumption has been decreasing steadily over the last half decade, although paranoia over Mad Cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE) is perhaps only partially to blame. According to the 1999 Hungarian Book of Statistics, beef and veal purchases hovered around 6.5 kilograms per capita between 1990 and 1995, but then began a gradual downward slide that reached 4.4 kilograms per capita in 1998. Last year, according to the Hungarian meat guild, beef consumption was at a paltry 2 kilograms per capita.

... Although Mad Cow disease appears to be spreading out to the rest of Europe from it's origin in the UK, there exists the possibility that it may never breach Hungary's borders. The Agriculture Ministry has banned cattle and animal feed imports from the UK, Portugal, France, and other EU countries; and after approximately 10,000 tests since 1989, has found no trace of BSE. [There is no value to this information until testing methods are disclosed in detail -- webmaster.]

Also, it has never been common for Hungarian cattle to be fed with meat and bone meal, a practice thought to be a major factor in the spread of the disease. Such products, which have been used in Western Europe for decades as a protein supplement, were rare in Hungary because of their high price tag. Instead, farmers here used an artificial product called carbomed, which can be translated into protein by the animal.

Hungary's neighbors are beginning to take precautions as well. Slovakia has been testing its livestock since 1995, and recently passed a ban on blood donations from people who spent more than six months in France and Britain between 1985 and 1998. The Czech Republic plans to run 5,000 tests by the end of this year, while Poland will screen 20,000 animals that were imported last year from countries where BSE has been detected.

Poland to Test 15,000 Cattle for Mad Cow Disease in 2001

Thursday 8 March 2001 Agence France Presse
Poland intends to test 15,000 cattle for Mad Cow disease in 2001, the spokesman for an intergovernmental team tasked with the problem said Wednesday.

"The screening program with Prionics tests was launched at the end of February and by the end of the year we should test 15,000 cows before they are slaughtered," Jacek Szymanowski told AFP. Only about 100 cattle have been tested for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow disease, using the fast Prionics test so far. Another 600 cattle have been tested to date using a slower test. "So far we have not detected a single case of BSE," he added.

Poland has imposed strict bans on the import of beef products to prevent the spread of BSE and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a deadly brain-wasting condition in humans believed to be caused by eating infected meat. About 500,000 cattle are slaughtered each year in Poland out of its total herd of six million, including dairy cows.

Poland has requested assistance from the European Union to cover the 100 million euros (93 million dollars) cost of expanding its screening program to all cattle older than 30 months. The government has also begun preparations to test all cattle before they are slaughtered in the case BSE is detected in Poland.

"Five laboratories have been prepared in Poland to handle that eventuality," said Szymanowski.

Preparations to incinerate large numbers of cattle carcasses have also begun. Poland has banned the import of cattle and beef products from a dozen European countries that have had cases of Mad Cow disease. Tons of goods containing foreign beef products have been removed from shelves in Polish stores.

Russia's mad cow disease monitoring poor

12 February 01 (Itar-Tass)
No cases of the mad cow disease and variant bovine spongiform encephalitis (BSE), which is its human presentation, have been registered in Russia so far, the Agriculture Ministry's senior veterinary official Nikolai Yaremenko said. Prime-Tass cited him as saying at a press conference in the Itar-Tass news agency on Monday that no cases had been identified only because Russia's checks and research are inadequate.

The chief of the National Consumer Advocacy Fund, Alexander Kalinin said at the conference that Russia had not been really confronted with the BSE problem, but its danger could not be dismissed. Kalinin said recent raids of all of Moscow's food markets revealed that 85 per cent of their produce was false or lacked proper certification and transportation documents, and 60 per cent of sold beef "came nobody knows from where". Beef imports from Britain, Portugal and Switzerland are banned in Russia. Imports from three of Germany's states where mad cow disease cases were registered are also barred.

Specialists said at the conference that BSE detection rate has sharply increased in the world because more checks of cattle were carried out. All cows older than 30 months are checked for BSE in Europe now, while only suspect animals used to be examined in the recent years. According to the Russian Agriculture Ministry, only 400 samples a year are obtained from cattle for BSE testing in Russia and only one research center works on the problem. For comparison, France has six such centers.

No mad cow disease found in China?

Feb 26, 2001 (AsiaPort via COMTEX) 
-- No mad cow disease cases have been detected in China so far, according to a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture Wednesday. The report said that cattle in China are mostly fed with straw and soybean meal in farming areas so they have do not have access to meat and bone meal (MBM) that is linked to the spread of the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Animal entrails are commonly used in Chinese dishes and their prices are sometimes higher than meat. For this reason there is not enough offal to be processed into animal feed, said Jia Youling, head of the ministry's Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Bureau. Only a tiny number of pigs and poultry were fed with MBM, and there is no basic factor for the disease to spread in China, he added.

China stopped the import of feed made from animal carcasses from BSE-infected countries since 1999. China imported less than 180,000 tons of MBM products and animal fats in the first 10 months of 2000, none of which came from European countries gripped by BSE, according to customs statistics.

A nationwide cattle investigation was launched in early 2000 and the survey on imported cattle and their descendants did not find any BSE cases.

Comment (webmaster): In other words, 0 cattle have been tested for the purposes of the table, despite 180,000 tons of MBM products and animal fats imported in the first 10 months of 2000.

McDonald's to require US feed compliance

March 13, 2001 By PHILIP BRASHER, Associated Press 
Mad cow disease prompts McDonald's safeguards on cattle feed: Hoping to keep mad cow disease out of the United States, McDonald's Corp. has ordered its beef suppliers to ensure that that the cattle they buy were fed in accordance with federal restrictions.

The fast-food giant has given meatpackers until April 1 to document compliance with the rules. The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that hundreds of feed makers had failed to comply with its feed regulations, which are intended to keep the brain-wasting disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from spreading if it ever reaches this country.

"Here in the U.S., it's always been BSE-free. We want to keep it that way," McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker said Tuesday. McDonald's plans to audit its suppliers' documentation, he said.

The McDonald's action has had a ripple effect through the beef industry. Major beefpackers, including IBP Inc., have told their cattle suppliers they must document their compliance with the feed rules.

"If McDonald's is requiring something of their suppliers, it has a pretty profound effect," said Janet Riley, a spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute, which represents packers. [This is a welcome initiative. McDonald's can enforce its requirements unlike so-called regulatory agencies such as FDA. Documentation would presumbably consist of DNA testing for bovine mitochondial DNA control region by independent laboratories. -- webmaster]

Mad cow is linked to a new version of the human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Animals get the disease by eating the tissue of other infected animals, so the U.S. livestock industry in 1996 voluntarily banned sheep and certain other animal parts from U.S. feed. The next year, the FDA formally banned any proteins from cows, sheep, goats, deer or elk - animals that get similar brain-wasting diseases - from being used as ingredients in feed for cows, sheep or goats. FDA also imposed paperwork and labeling restrictions associated with the ban.

About 1,200 Texas cattle were quarantined in January after they ate animal feed containing the banned ingredients. The feed maker, Purina Mills, told FDA it may have mistakenly mixed meat bone meal into a cow feed supplement. [This particular incident was overblown but it did illustrate non-hypothetical imperfect implementation of the ban. -- webmaster]

Voices of America

05 Mar 01 Anonymous questions emailed from public to webmaster
Opinions expressed are those of the writers and not evaluated nor endorsed by this site.
"Hello, is it possible to get a TSE from being in close proximity with an avid hunter? i was in a store and a man in full hunting gear was next to me in line. and i remembered hearing that people who hunt can get CWD .all the stuff in the news is very frightening. also i use a topical ointment for psoriasis made in ireland, called dovenex, is it possible to get a TSE from that ? the company leo labs was not very helpful in getting info. thank for any help."

"I keep hearing on the news that there are no known cases of mad cow disease in the U.S. However, my brother-in-law, in Michigan, died last June of C-J and, when I returned home from the funeral, there was an article in the Louisville Courier Journal about the first known case in this area. Where can I get the facts?"

"I was wondering whether the burning of animals to eradicate foot and mouth might not be unwittingly spreading BSE ?. After all some of the cows they are burning (and not incinerating), might be BSE positive. What do you think?"

" I have never seen actual proof that New Variant CJD is caused by eating infected beef. As a matter of fact, some of the deceased's families have insisted their loved ones were not beef eaters. Hello...we are talking about approximately 94 deaths in over 10 years! What about heart disease, cancer, MS, MD, AIDS? How about people killed by drunk drivers? Come on...9.4 deaths per year is hardly an epidemic! This is not to say you should take unreasonable risks but I wouldn't lay awake at night worrying about whether I was infected or not either."

"Today we buried my aunt who unfortunately fell to the mercy of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The disease progressed so rapidly, it ripped her life away from us in a year. Ironically, the local and national media was plastered today with articles and commentaries on the Mad Cow disease, it's association with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and it's threat to society. I was shocked to see the claims that there have been no reported cases in the US as of yet. My aunt was diagnosed with the dreadful illness several weeks ago after she had dredged through the stages of depression, insomnia, memory loss, dementia and was reaching the final stages with speech and hearing loss, loss of limb control, cessation of eating and then constant sleep. I would have guessed that this finding would have been reported to health officials. Obviously I was wrong. I was also surprised to hear that none of the Houston doctors would even touch her where the topic of autopsy is concerned. Odd, she would need a brain biopsy to confirm the disease. Once arriving at the conclusion that she did indeed have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, we were informed that there are others in the area who are fighting the losing battle against this same disease. "

"Hi, My question is this.......... Is this whole mad cow disease a joke or is it truly a real epidemic that is happening. Because the articles I've read make it sound like its one big joke. Please let me know!!!"

"I have a few questions. I understand that gelatin is made from collagen from boiled animal hides. So what is the danger of getting exposed to any type of CJD from eating gelatin foods produced in the USA? Of course the question then becomes, what country did the gelatin come from? So what would you do? My ending question: has anyone come up with a realistic estimate of the incubation period in humans from ingestion?"

"its not my home work i just need to get an outside expert to interveiw and its required for this class i already have all the info. i need i just need to ask three to four simple questions but i can see your not into the interveiwing thing so i'll have to find someone else that is willing to help me"

"I have a few questions. We live in Washington State and would like to know if there is a way to know if "wasting Disease" is here? My husband and his family are hunters and I would like more information if you know. So if you know anything about our area I would appreciate it. As for me I will no longer be eating meat or drinking milk. In fact I wont be fixing it at all if my husband wants it he will need a pan of his own and he will need to cook it. Even at that I am worried about it being in my kitchen at all.. I have already thought about eating out and the fact that even if I dont eat beef everything in the kitchen could potentially be contaminated with PRIONS!! "

"Being in health care and having recently seen a case of CJD which no one could explain why or where the relatively young woman could have contracted it, one gets a new perspective on the entire subject. In this instance the husband was contacted after the woman's death and told another woman about a mile from the the victim had died of the same disease. One would have to raise some questions, but no one pursued the issue, to my kowledge. The Wall St. J. and some of the publications are providing information but it seems the general media is in denial."

"If they have decided to recall makeup, soap, bovine serum, etc. "they" cannot absolutely say how either CJ disease or the vCJ disease may be transmitted. Re- the so called "wasting disease" of the elk/deer in the western states, walk like a duck, quack like a duck does that make them a duck? Recently on one of the investigative programs it showed a man who had killed a dear and he had sent the head/brain in for examination and before he got the results he died. I don't believe that even made the newspapers. Keep up the great information site, and it is too bad the authorities in charge of such information have chosen to stick their heads in the sand as so often is the case."

"I noticed dogs being put to sleep with similar symptoms to mad cow disease. So I typed on the internet "Mad Dog Disease" and yes it exists. As dogs are fed bovine renderings not necessarily of US origin, I am concerned. Also noted in the same article were gelatin in food and vaccines (made of diseased cows!!) and garden bone meal. I have stopped washing my dogs dishes with humans in the dishwasher, but believe the practice to be widespread. Is it safe not to report this? Should we own and pet animals? I am also concerned about feeding cows sewage, is this done in the US? Also, shouldn't dairy cows have to be feed grass or alfalfa? Is milk from sewage fed cows safe? I have given up most animal products, but do not see how we can do without milk. Thank you for listening"

"I have more than a professional curiosity regarding this; we are probably about to get our 14-month old son immunized against polio for the first time. His godfather is going back and forth to Tibet and India these days, and we might get there ourselves, so we thought we'd better consider it. Also, I got my daughter the 2 of the 3 Hepatitis shots before I figured out that I'd rather not. Now even our famiy practice doc says we might as well get the third and complete the process. So I'm (morbidly) curious about that one, too. Any chance you have info-or a pointer in a right direction?"

"My concern is that there seem to be no discussion in media over here in cases concerning food and agriculture - and very little of BSE. Yesterdays newspaper revealed that the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture finally and reluctantly agreed too start testing for cattle more than 30 months of age - in July. This to secure we are not the only country not being able to prove some security in eating the meat. Seems like he is seeing it as an issue of market and trust, not an issue of health ! (IMO) A theoretically evaluation of risk can never replace concrete testing and documentation, which is needed here as well as in other countries."

"My first real contact in learning about all the garbage in meat was the book "Deadly Feast" just a few short days ago -- and today, instant vegan (and I'm not going back!). My God, I've been eating recycled chicken [manure] and euthanized pets. Man, ordinary folks just DON'T know this stuff is going on!! Anyway, I have been planning a small comic book for some time now and I think I have found my first issue's topic -- Mad Cow Disease and CJD. If you folks have a mailing address I will send a few complimentary copies whenever I am done. Hopefully I will be able to reach a few younger readers who do not normally read about "European" diseases!"

"One quick question that I have not seen addressed: Has anyone done any research on the meat/milk purchasing done by the U.S. military for their servicemembers overseas? I was in the U.S. Navy from 1985 to 1990 and I participated in two Mediterranean Cruises aboard an aircraft carrier. We pulled into port in France and Italy several times each cruise in 1987 and in 1989. I know for a fact that fresh local vegetables and milk were brought onboard, bit I do not know whether the meat was local or frozen in the U.S. and stored for the entire trip. (I ate at local restaurants and from street vendors maybe a few dozen times total in France, Italy, Egypt, Israel, and Turkey, but was never in Britain.) If it was European meat we were eating everyday on our ship, do you think I am still eligible to give blood? Is there ANY way to determine if I may have been exposed?"

"I was contacted yesterday by a man here in Texas whose wife was diagnosed with CJD by brain biopsy in Dec. 2000. She had a bone marrow transplant in April 2000. Do you know of anyone who is working on the possibility of CJD being transmitted via bone marrow? Sure sounds like a possibility to me - she is about 51 years old. I would imagine that both the Texas Health Dept. and the CDC will do whatever they can to cover this case up if the donated bone marrow can be traced back to a CJD victim. At this point, I just don't know who to trust to investigate this situation."

"The most fearful thing I read, which makes this disease even deadlier is, it cannot be detected in the body, because it has no DNA. Therefore, is not detected early in a human, nor can it be screened by blood labs. The next fearful thing was, this virus is not killed by sterilization. I expect this disease, now that it's become rampant [Mad Cow Disease in Beef animals, Scrapie in Sheep, CJD in man and Kuru in the Fore, a cannibilistic Stone Age Tribe in New Guinea] will far surpass victims of AIDS."

"I haven't been able to find any info about this. My question: Can mad cows disease be transmitted through bone meal made for humans? I'm one of those lactose intolerant people and like using bone meal, particularly the powered form, instead of dairy products. As a supplement, it has alot of minerals besides calcium, which, say, a calcium carbonate doesn't have. I see a little info about mad cows in connection with cow feed and bone meal in the feed, but it's not clear whether the bone meal is part of the problem or if there's any difference between bone meal for humans and bone meal for domestic animals. I know the stuff I use is "purified". In fact, it's Solgar brand bone meal powder, which they claim is from an organically fed herd of cattle in Belgium. Thanks."

"I invite you to visit ... over 550 pages on the WHOLE story around cow's milk and dairy. From casein through viruses, and prions. In addition, there is now a site for the recently deceased Dr. Virgil Hulse, author of Mad Cows and Milkgate "

"Hi I didn't see any other email to use in order to contact someone regarding a piece of news that was heard on the radio within the last two weeks (but is now nowhere to be found.) This was heard by one person in the Phoenix Arizona area and separately by someone else in Salt Lake City area maybe on NPR radio. The news that was reported was that Mad Cow had been found in the Texas herd. I was wondering if you know about this or no anyone to contact regarding this information. Thanks ever so much"

"We have a growing concern and no one wants to listen, we hope you will. A coworker just found out that their best friend of 30 years was diagnosed with the human form of mad cow disease. He has been given 2 weeks to live. The man who was diagnosed was originally thought to have had a stroke, but after a MRI and no signs of improvement, the doctor sent the spinal fuild sample to the CDC for testing. The CDC was supposed to have the test results in 5 days, but kept it for 10 days to re-run the test since the results were so shocking. The CDC found positive results of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)) The patient has never been to the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain or Ireland, where the disease has been reported as existing. He was in Saudi Arabia 15 years ago, but that is not a country effected and they don't eat cows. Not only is the thought of mad cow existing in Tulsa extremely frightening, but the fact that no one has been told is worse. The doctor who is this individuals primary care physician told the patients transplant doctor that this was the 3rd case existing in his practice (the patient had survived a transplant over a year ago). We are having a terrible time watching our friends suffer through this horrific experience and it makes it worse that no one will listen, investigate, or notify the public. Are we so concerned as a meat eating and farming state that we will risk the health of our community by not exposing this tragedy?"

"After reading a number of articles on the topic, I decided to look more closely at the ingredients in 2 protein supplements that I have been drinking, and I found a protein called bovine serum albumin listed. I have done a little bit of research on this ingredient on the web. But I am not a scientist, and I am not sure that I really know why this ingredient is added to food supplements(nor do I know how safe the ingredient is) as most articles suggest that bsa is used for research purposes. I contacted the company that produces the protein powder I have most recently been drinking. At first they said the drink was bsa free. I suggested that they read the label with me, and sure enough they too saw the listing. However, they could not or would not tell me why bsa was added and where it came from (country of origin, company of origin, lab of origin). The most that they would tell me (and I do recognize that the supplement industry is not regulated) was that of course the material was tested."

Clinic tests breast milk for mad cow disease

Monday February 26 Reuters
An Austrian hospital is testing the breast milk from women aged 30 years and above to check whether the human form of mad cow disease has infiltrated their bodies.

Scientists at the Innsbruck University clinic are running the checks to seek evidence of prions that trigger bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE (news - web sites)), or its human form, new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (news - web sites) (vCJD). Prions are proteins that are normally benign but which can take on a misshapen form that may damage the brain.

The Innsbruck clinic has long been testing human milk for any impurities such as dioxin and lead, and amid the current mad cow crisis, decided to expand tests to search for BSE prions as well.

Wolfgang Lechner, a doctor at the clinic, told Reuters that women older than 30 were being tested as the odds were greater that they may have already eaten BSE-infected beef. All tests had proved negative so far, he added.

Austria is one of the few countries in Europe without a reported case of mad cow disease. More than 80 people in Britain and two in France have died from vCJD.

Comment (webmaster): This would be more interesting if the testing method and experimental evidence of its validity had been published. Milk is not bovine brain homogenate and tests for the latter would not necessarily be sensitive or specific. The lab would have to prove that it could detect milk that had been deliberately spiked with BSE. But assuming the testing was reliable -- why not apply it to cow milk itself? The infectivity of milk, especially in the preclinical stages, has never been properly studied.

Eastern Europe to harmonise anti-mad cow efforts

Friday February 16, 2001 (Reuters)
Central and east European agriculture ministers agreed at a meeting on Thursday to harmonise efforts to keep their countries free of mad cow disease. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy has not been discovered in any state belonging to the Central European Free Trade Association (CEFTA), which includes Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

But CEFTA has agreed to step up testing of high-risk animals, aiming to restore consumer confidence in beef.

"I think it is important to jointly discuss ways of fighting the disease with my counterparts in CEFTA partner states,"Czech Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl told a news conference.

BSE causes a fatal brain-wasting disorder in cattle. New variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, thought to be the human form of BSE, has killed more than 97 people in Britain and two in France.

The ministers issued a joint declaration stating that their countries intended to prohibit the feeding of ruminants with meat and bone meal. The declaration said they aimed to establish parameters for bone meal production in CEFTA states, which would destroy agents of the disease and contamination of the feed chain. There would also be selective regulation of imports from BSE-affected countries.

CEFTA states will follow European Union procedures, ''assuming that they apply the principle of preliminary precautions."They expected to be fully informed by the EU and to receive full observer status, the declaration said.

CEFTA states will also intensify testing of high risk animals. The meeting did not discuss the possibility of compensation from the EU for losses incurred due to loss of consumer confidence in beef. "However, that does not mean that it is not a priority," Fencl said. CEFTA farm ministers will next meet in Sofia, Bulgaria May 3.

Mutton processor back in business

March 8, 2001 Western Producer Mary MacArthur
An Alberta processor that was forced to stop killing sheep more than two years ago is, according to this story, back in business.

Canada West Foods of Innisfail stopped killing sheep older than one year after fears of scrapie, a wasting disease in sheep that was linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, made it difficult to dispose of offal.

Rendering companies and the local landfill site didn't want offal from older sheep.

The company, which still had customers wanting mutton, set out to solve the problem. "We still had the sales," said Randy Smith, assistant livestock buyer and grader.

With the help of the Olds College Composting Technology Centre, it developed a way to compost sheep offal. "It's relatively simple technology," said Donna Chaw, lead scientist on the project.

The offal is chopped and mixed with wood shavings and sawdust and placed in a concrete block bunker that is lined with plastic pipes for blowing air through the mixture.

CWD to cattle: definite but inefficient transmission

13 Mar 01 Medline abstract of J Vet Diagn Invest 2001 Jan;13(1):91-6
Hamir AN, Cutlip RC, Miller JM, Williams ES, Stack MJ, Miller MW, O'Rourke KI, Chaplin MJ
Opinion (webmaster): The first paper, like a recent sheep-blood-is-infectious study, is published as a work-in-progress because of its importance to public policy. Most readers are mature enough to assimilate this limitation and still glean information from the initial results.

The study confirms that CWD transmits to cattle, though quite poorly assuming the original intra-cerebral inoculation was potent. Deer and cattle prions are about as close in sequence as hamster and mouse; species barrier oddities have long been documented in rodents. Nothing is learned from deer-to-cattle about deer-to-human risks, such is the unpredictability of the species barrier.

Nothing is learned about deer-to-sheep either. Since horizontal transfer from sheep to deer at the Foothills Research Station confinement facility in Ft. Collins is the best available hypothesis for the origin of CWD, sheep would have to be tested in a separate experiment. Sheep and deer commonly share the same pastures and public land. Again, deer-to-sheep efficiency need not be the same as sheep-to-deer.

The explanation is simple: the prion seed crystals from the donor species recruit prion monomers from the recipient species; these are of different amino acid sequence. By the time the infection is clinical the agent has jumped genomes while retaining some conformational information from the seed. That process is inherently not symmetrical.

The study also finds that diagnostic reagents used today in BSE surveys in the US would pick up CWD transmitted to cattle (as well as UK BSE). However, if the US goes over to the high through-put Prionics test, it would need to be verified also that that test also finds transmitted CWD. In the Prionics test was used for western blot analysis of brains from the 3 cattle described in the paper.

The second paper (didn't we already know this?) establishes that preclinical scrapie can be found in a live animal test of nictitating membrane lymphoid tissues. These particular sheep were slaughtered for confirmatory tests so it can not be determined how many of them would have gone on to develop clinical disease, not that that matters for eradication purposes. It is of interest that 60/60 of the Vermont sheep reportedly tested negative on third eyelids. USDA is moving towards formal validation of the test, which amounts to quantifying specificity and sensitivity (false positives and false negatives).

Preliminary findings on the experimental transmission of chronic wasting disease agent of mule deer to cattle.

J Vet Diagn Invest 2001 Jan;13(1):91-6
Hamir AN, Cutlip RC, Miller JM, Williams ES, Stack MJ, Miller MW, O'Rourke KI, Chaplin MJ
To determine the transmissibility of chronic wasting disease (CWD) to cattle and to provide information about clinical course, lesions, and suitability of currently used diagnostic procedures for detection of CWD in cattle, 13 calves were inoculated intracerebrally with brain suspension from mule deer naturally affected with CWD.

Between 24 and 27 months postinoculation, 3 animals became recumbent and were euthanized. Gross necropsies revealed emaciation in 2 animals and a large pulmonary abscess in the third. Brains were examined for protease-resistant prion protein (PrP(res)) by immunohistochemistry and Western blotting and for scrapie-associated fibrils (SAFs) by negative-stain electron microscopy. Microscopic lesions in the brain were subtle in 2 animals and absent in the third case.

However, all 3 animals were positive for PrP(res) by immunohistochemistry and Western blot, and SAFs were detected in 2 of the animals. An uninoculated control animal euthanized during the same period did not have PrP(res) in its brain.

These are preliminary observations from a currently in-progress experiment. Three years after the CWD challenge, the 10 remaining inoculated cattle are alive and apparently healthy. These preliminary findings demonstrate that diagnostic techniques currently used for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) surveillance would also detect CWD in cattle should it occur naturally.

Immunohistochemical detection of scrapie prion proteins in clinically normal sheep in Pennsylvania.

J Vet Diagn Invest 2001 Jan;13(1):89-91
Kim H, O'Rourke KI, Walter M, Purchase HG, Enck J, Shin TK 
Following diagnosis of scrapie in a clinically suspect Suffolk sheep, 7 clinically normal flockmates were purchased by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to determine their scrapie status using an immunohistochemical procedure. Two of the 7 euthanized healthy sheep had positive immunohistochemical staining of the prion protein of scrapie (PrP-Sc) in their brains, nictitating membranes, and tonsils. The PrP-Sc was localized in the areas of the brain where, histopathologically, there was neurodegeneration and astrocytosis. The PrP-Sc occurred within germinal centers of the affected nictitating membranes and tonsils and was located in the cytoplasm of the dendrite-like cells, lymphoid cells, and macrophages.

These results confirm that immunohistochemical examination of the nictitating membrane can be used as a screen for the presence of scrapie infection in clinically normal sheep at a capable veterinary diagnostic laboratory. In sheep with a PrP-Sc-positive nictitating membrane, the diagnosis of scrapie should be confirmed by histopathology and immunohistochemical examination of the brain following necropsy.

Following full validation, immunohistochemistry assays for detection of PrP-Sc in nictitating membrane lymphoid tissues can improve the effectiveness of the scrapie control and eradication program by allowing diagnosis of the disease in sheep before the appearance of clinical signs.

Country of origin not specified for casein milk protein

13 Mar 01 NY Times interview by Sandy Blakeslee
Opinion (webmaster):

This article contained a subtle misquotation that has engendered a great deal of confusion. Some brands of tuna, according to their label, contain bovine casein, not casings. Over the phone, the reporter heard casein as the more familiar word casings. There is no brand of tuna known or at all likely to use bovine casings.

Casein is what is on some labels. It is a nutritious bulk protein found in milk and a global commodity in its own right. The label does not list two-letter code for country of origin; indeed there may be trade agreements which currently prevent this. Casein (and thus tuna) originating in the US and similar countries would have zero plausible risk in regards to nvCJD. If however, the casein in this (or thousands of other products, casein having useful properties for emulsification, gelling, binding, and stabilization) was sourced in the UK, a known exporter, or another BSE-confirmed country, some consumers would wish to know even though the risk is strictly hypothetical (little relevant data).

Over the last five years, manufacturers across the board have taken strong steps towards safer sourcing, many (such as Purina Mills) even reformulating products to avoid bovine byproducts entirely.

Even from a proven BSE cow, casein and bovine serum albumin (used in clarification of red wine, now outlawed; highly publicized lapse last year) could be very low, even zero, risk for nvCJD because of purification steps and should not be singled out as high risk materials that are much higer priority to avoid (eg. sausage made from UK bovine brain). Britain will bear the brunt of any problems with dairy, since they took no steps to limit exposure of their own population.

Yet Dr. Maura Ricketts of the UN's world health organization, has stated that as a precaution, no product from an animal with TSE should be consumed by human or livestock. Quantitative experiments to determine the infectivity, if any, of milk from BSE cows are currently being repeated (the British botched the original studies); preclinical cows are a valid concern given early involvement of the lymphatic system 1,2 3,4).

Prion scientists differ in personal eating habits, in essence opinions with no standing as public health advisories. Members of the public need to inform themselves and make their own assessments. For example, most epidemiological studies have not linked eating scrapie sheep to CJD. Yet Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner is quoted as unwilling to eat sheep products. On the other hand, he ate a T-bone steak (banned in England) for breakfast the day of the prize despite dorsal root ganglia. Other researchers such as Dr. Beth Williams at U of Wyoming say they are willing to hunt and consume venison from high-risk CWD areas. Do we need a survey of 500 prion scientists -- what would it mean for the consumer?

Red wine and casein illustrate the point that bovine products are found in a surprising number of products that no one would expect, that labels are sometimes inadequate as to content and countries of origin, that in all liklihood nearly everyone in the US has had some exposure to some product from some country with confirmed BSE. It does not follow that large numbers of Americans will succumb to nvCJD (so far there have been none, though exclusion of blood donors suggests a risk), only that some exposure was inevitable as a consequence of globalization of trade.

People would be well-advised to examine their whole spectrum of life risks to get perspective on the risk posed by nvCJD. For example, proven risks from obesity and cigarettes surely dwarf any worst case scenario for nvCJD. But the myriad scientific uncertainties surrounding CJD, anxieties attached to dementias per se, lack of solid infectivity data on specific products, and absence of medical treatment conspire to elevate the public perception of risk. Is that risk perception great inflated over what it deserves? Given the many scientific uncertainties, who has the answer to this question and on what factual basis?

With 35 labs now racing to develop ultra-sensitive diagnostics, it seems likely that hard facts will soon be available to supplant theory-based product reassurances. Therapy for people or animals seems farther down the road; it would contribute greatly reducing anxiety over already have been afflicted with a so far rare disease.

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