Prion disease
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Sterilizing surgical instruments: new problem emerges
$600 million spent to slaughter British cattle for 'mad cow disease'
Improved testing of old blood bank samples
MAFF lawyers delay second phase of BSE inquiry.
Weekend of protest against beef on bone ban
Irradiated red meat process approved by USDA
Listeria contamination at Minnesota milk packaging plant
Editor fired from AMA journal blasts organization
Genetically modified food: whistleblower validated
France's Herve denies negligence in AIDS trial

Sterilizing surgical instruments

From New Scientist, 13 February 1999  Ian Mason and Michael Day
The heat is on. The temperatures routinely used to sterilise surgical instruments in British hospitals might actually help to spread the deadly brain disease CJD, say researchers in Scotland. However, the finding could lead to more effective ways of disinfecting surgical instruments contaminated by prions, the rogue proteins thought to cause the disease.

Concerns that surgeons' instruments might pass on new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of BSE, intensified last month with news that the infection is present throughout the lymph tissue of victims, not just in the central nervous system (This Week, 23 January, p 5). [Only tonsil has actually been studied thoroughly in lymphoreticular system -- webmaster]

Because there is no sure way of sterilising instruments contaminated with prions, the discovery prompted calls for surgeons to use disposable instruments for operations involving lymph tissue. But so far the British government has not committed itself because of the high costs.

Now there is evidence that attempts to disinfect instruments by "pressure cooking" them at high temperatures in an autoclave might do more harm than good. David Taylor of the Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh found that increasing the temperature of the autoclave actually made it harder to destroy CJD prions. In one experiment, infected tissue samples were heated at 134 ÉC for 9, 18 and 30 minutes. The treated samples were not infectious. However, when the experiment was repeated at 138 ÉC, the tissue was still infectious. In Britain, the standard temperature range for autoclaving instruments is 134 to 138 ÉC.

Taylor believes the slightly higher temperature "fixed" the prion, allowing chemical links to form that made the molecules more stable. He is preparing his results for publication. {not published as of 6 Mar 99 but see other similar studies by DM Taylor -- webmaster

Mark Pepys, who specialises in the chemistry of brain disorders at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London, says Taylor's explanation "involves a lot of speculation because we just don't know enough about the agent that causes CJD yet". But the suggestion doesn't surprise him. Even very small temperature changes can cause changes in a protein molecule's shape, he says. This might involve bonds that by themselves are quite weak. "But if there were enough of them, perhaps hundreds, the effect of strengthening the molecule could be dramatic," he says.

"Taylor's work highlights the difficulty in inactivating prions," says John Barbara, a microbiology consultant to Britain's National Blood Authority. He says the findings strengthen the case for developing ways of physically excluding prions from blood products.

In terms of surgical instruments, Taylor says that a strong solution of sodium hydroxide for one hour followed by autoclaving at 136 ÉC for one hour is fairly effective. "If we combine alkali solutions with the right grade surgical steel that can stand up to it, it will be possible to improve sterilisation," he says.

For now, though, he says that the only completely safe way to deal with contaminated items is to throw them away.

$600 million spent to slaughter British cattle for 'mad cow disease'

February 11, 1999  Agence France-Press
LONDON - The expense of slaughtering cattle aged over 30 months considered at risk of having "mad cow" disease came to $600 million in 1998-99, the government said here Thursday. The plan was carried out to rid Britain of cattle most likely to contract bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow disease." Secretary of State for Agriculture Jeff Rooker told the House of Commons in a written answer that $407 million had gone to breeders, with 20 percent coming from the European Union.

The difference of about $193 million covered the cost of slaughter and elimination of the cattle carcasses. The European Commission in 1996 declared an embargo on the sale of British beef, to prevent BSE being transmitted to humans in the form of the deadly brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease. The embargo is to be lifted only after a European inspection mission gives the go-ahead.

New hepatitis test gets FDA clearance

February 12, 1999 Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The government approved a more accurate test for hepatitis C on Friday, a move that could help blood banks track more accurately people who may have caught the dangerous liver virus from pre-1992 blood transfusions. An estimated 3.9 million Americans have hepatitis C, thousands of whom caught it from transfusions before purity tests of the blood supply began in 1992. The hepatitis C virus sometimes destroys people's livers, yet many carriers don't know they have it.

So under new government rules, blood banks are testing leftover samples of pre-1992 transfusions. When a test indicates a batch of blood could have contained hepatitis C, hospitals will track people who received that blood and urge them to be checked for infection.

The test that blood banks have had to use until now sometimes classified blood samples as "indeterminate" - it couldn't always rule out infection in samples that were fine. That meant thousands of people who aren't sick could be scared into getting an unnecessary hepatitis test. The new test, Chiron Corp.'s RIBA HCV 3.0, is more accurate, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday. In one study in which a competing test declared 30 percent of samples indeterminate, the RIBA 3.0 found only 7 percent inconclusive.

New Test Developed for Blood Supply

Minneapolis Star Tribune Online (03/05/99) Neergaard, Lauran
Blood banks will begin using next week genetic fingerprinting tests for viral infections in the nation's blood supply. While the blood is already safe, the new tests promise to make the blood supply even safer, using nucleic acid testing to identify tiny amounts of viruses, including hepatitis C virus and HIV. Additionally, while older tests screen for antibodies in a donor, allowing an infected donor to occasionally slip through the system, the new tests--which can screen for the actual viruses--can detect viruses even before the donor's immune system recognizes the infection. The new technique is technically still experimental, but the Food and Drug Administration is strongly encouraging blood banks to quickly initiate nucleic acid screening. The tests will initially be used to screen for hepatitis C virus and HIV, with other pathogens to follow. Although the testing will increase costs by about $6 or $7 per unit of blood, experts believe it will prevent about 84 causes of hepatitis C transmission through blood each year.

Coment (webmaster): These approaches do not help with CJD blood donors. There are no antibodies produced and ampliying prion DNA could only detect very rare familial at-risk donors.

Irradiated red meat process approved by USDA

February 12, 1999  Associated Press By PAUL NOWELL
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Irradiated red meat moved closer to the shelves of your neighborhood grocer Friday when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the controversial process for zapping potentially deadly bacteria. "We need to do all we can to give consumers confidence we have the safest food supply in the world, which it is," Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said at a meeting in Charlotte of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. The proposed USDA rule would permit - but not require - irradiation for refrigerated or frozen uncooked meat, and some meat products. The industry welcomed the announcement, saying it will make meat safer.

Anti-nuclear groups oppose the procedure and some health advocates fear it might lead to a relaxation of other safety practices such as plant sanitation. Irradiation also remains a hot issue in America's kitchens. "I'll let someone else try it first before I buy it," said Annie Miller as she loaded groceries into her car outside a supermarket in Charlotte.

During irradiation, low-level doses of gamma rays or electron beam irradiation are administered to kill bacteria. Irradiation is the only known method to eliminate a potentially deadly strain of E. coli in raw meat. The technology can also significantly reduce levels of listeria, salmonella and campylobacter bacteria. Recently, contamination at a meat processing plant in Michigan was linked to 11 deaths, and listeria was the suspected culprit. The USDA rule on irradiation will be published in the Federal Register within 10 days, with a 60-day period after that for public comment.

Charles P. Schroeder, head of the Cattlemen's Beef Association, said: "It is not often that industry eagerly awaits new government regulations and guidelines, but the use of this technology in the beef industry will benefit both beef producers and consumers" by producing safer beef. Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, added: "In the simplest of terms, food irradiation will save lives." It remains to be seen whether meatpackers will make widespread use of the technique.

"We see irradiation as another potential tool for enhancing food safety. Ultimately, it will be up to the consumer to determine whether it's an acceptable practice," said Gary Mickelson, spokesman for meatpacking giant IBP Inc. of Dakota, Neb. "First we need to see what the rules are. After that, we may test-market some ground beef." The Food and Drug Administration ruled in 1997 that irradiation is safe for raw meat, and also has approved irradiation for years in poultry, pork, spices and some raw produce. But USDA regulates the processing and labeling of red meat, so it had to write regulations to guide how meat processors incorporated the new technology into the plants, how they used different dosages and how they labeled the resulting products.

None of the major food companies has stepped forward to market irradiated products. Only a few small retailers offer irradiated foods. "It's like pasteurization of milk," said rancher Wallace Schulthes, who raises cattle in Utah. "At one time, people were concerned it would be bad for them. Look at the benefits of that."

Unprecedented row delays second phase of BSE inquiry.

 BMJ 1999 Feb 27;318(7183):558  free full-text
Clare Dyer, legal correspondent, report. 
Witnesses at the inquiry into bovine spongiform encephalopathy claim procedures are unfair. Will the Bristol inquiry adopt the same methods, and will witnesses again cry foul?

Sparks have been flying behind the scenes at the inquiry into bovine spongiform encephalo-pathy (BSE). The bland press release issued last week by the inquiry announcing that it will not be able to report, as planned, in June 1999›and adding that it needs more time, contains little hint of the backstage drama, beyond a statement by the chairman, Lord Phillips, that "preparing for phase two is proving a more exacting process than we had anticipated, and we are anxious that it should be done fully and fairly."

The word "unprecedented" has been used to describe the row that has blown up between the inquiry and lawyers representing civil servants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food and the Department of Health. Strongly worded letters have been exchanged between the lawyers and the inquiry, and judicial review has been threatened.

Phase one of the inquiry, the fact finding exercise, has ended after evidence from more than 300›witnesses was presented over 95›days. Civil servants have objected to the "draft factual accounts" produced on the various issues, and have posted them on the internet with an invitation for corrections to be made. Witnesses claim that these accounts, far from being factual, are "value laden" and prosecutorial, contain errors of fact, and selective, and even inaccurate, quotes from documents and, thanks to technology, they have now been broadcast to the world. [Many accounts are bland or even sympathetic to perpetrators. There is amply opportunity for corrections and additions to be made. Some of these make the case even more damning -- that may be the real concern of MAFF attorneys.-- webmaster]

The row is delaying the start of phase two, which is set to deal with "potential criticisms, clarification, and conflicts of evidence." The inquiry had planned to put "Salmon letters" the letters that witnesses receive before they appear before the inquiry detailing the criticisms they are likely to face on the internet, together with the witness"s response, on the day the witness gave evidence.

This is now being reconsidered. Those whose conduct comes under scrutiny at official inquiries inevitably feel vulnerable, and questions about fairness come with the territory. Britons are used to the adversarial process of court cases and disciplinary hearings by regulatory bodies like the General Medical Council (GMC). Unlike inquiries, however, these have a body of formal precedent laying down strict procedural rules. Court cases and GMC hearings take place in public but few documents are publicly available, and there are tight controls over what evidence can be admitted.

The inquisitorial process of the inquiries often comes as a shock to witnesses, and it is not accompanied by the strict procedural rules that operate in the court system. Though all the inquiry chairmen emphasise that they are not presiding over a court of law, that no one is accused, and that they are merely trying to get at the truth, to the witness whose professional reputation is on the line it can feel like a court of law but without the safeguards.

The internet has also introduced a new element into the equation. Everything is instantly available to the tabloid reporter or to fellow professionals halfway around the globe. The BSE inquiry has posted transcripts of evidence and witness statements on the internet. It also has a library of all its documents which the public can consult. Even documents such as civil service memos, thought when written to be protected by public interest immunity even from scrutiny by a court, are freely available to the public. Extracts have been read out in public, ensuring that they get on the internet. [Yes, but agricultural memos are hardly matters of national security and their accuracy is not in dispute. -- webmaster] ...

BSE inquiry team unable to meet deadline

Tue, Feb 16, 1999 By Eileen Murphy, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
The public inquiry team investigating the BSE outbreak said today that it needed more time to complete its work due to the overwhelming amount of evidence already given by witnesses. The inquiry, set up in December 1997, was due to report back to the Government by June this year but the first stage of the inquiry was only completed just before Christmas.

So far the inquiry committee have heard from Government ministers and advisers involved in coping with the BSE crisis, farmers, local authority staff and the families of those who have died from the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD) - the degenerative brain disease linked to the mad cow outbreak.

Inquiry chairman Lord Phillips said today: "The committee and inquiry team have been working hard to meet the June 1999 deadline but we have concluded that we will not be able to complete our work by that date. "We have taken evidence from the public and private sectors spanning a period of over 10 years. We are now engaged in evaluating that evidence to prepare for phase two. "This task includes identifying the possibility that our report may be critical of individuals and, where this is the case, giving them notice and a fair opportunity to respond to the potential criticism." He added that these preparations had proved "more exacting" than anticipated.

The inquiry has so far accumulated more than 2,000 files of original information at its south London offices, mainly from those at the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Health. It has also heard evidence from more than 300 witnesses over 95 days. No new date has yet been set for the inquiry to report back.

Weekend of protest against beef on bone ban

Fri Mar  5, 1999  PA News By Eileen Murphy
Thousands of pubs, restaurants and hotels this afternoon announced a weekend of mass protests in defiance of the Government's beef on the bone ban. The demonstrations are being coordinated by Jim Sutherland, the first licensee to be prosecuted for selling beef on the bone.

The national days of action are due to take place on April 10 and 11 in an attempt to show politicians the depth of feeling against the ban. Mr Sutherland, who runs the Lodge Hotel in Berwickshire, said: "If enough of us stand up to the Government it can't prosecute all of us. It is the only way of getting through to this arrogant administration."

The announcement came after the Government suffered the embarrassment of the Prince of Wales was served beef on the bone during a visit to the Celtic Manor Hotel in Gwent.

Mr Sutherland added: "I am calling on people to take action and show the Government what people really think. Of course people will be breaking the law but the Government has said that no one will be prosecuted before being warned. "We will certainly be participating in our own way. We want people to serve up British beef on the bone and their customers to tell them they want it on the menu."

Under the Beef Bones Regulations, introduced in the wake of the BSE crisis in November 1997, anyone selling T-bone steaks, beef ribs or oxtail is liable to prosecution. ends

Tests find Listeria contamination at Minnesota milk packaging plant

February 17, 1999 Associated Press
WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. - Testing has confirmed the presence of Listeria bacteria at a milk processing plant that voluntarily recalled some of its products and shut down production earlier this month. Although the source of the contamination hasn't been determined, managers of the Kohler Mix Specialties plant reopened it Wednesday after a two-week shutdown for intensive cleaning, inspections and training.

Michael Foods, the St. Louis Park-based parent company of Kohler, issued a nationwide recall Feb. 6 of 55 kinds of quart-sized and smaller cartons of dairy products packaged at the plant and sold under several brand names. The recall amounted to 300,000 to 400,000 gallons of products. Production resumed Wednesday but no products were being shipped. The Agriculture Department and Kohler Mix will test them to ensure they are not contaminated. Becky Bailey, a spokeswoman for Michael Foods, said it was too early to say when the products would return to stores. In all, state inspectors found nine cartons of milk that were tainted with Listeria. All of them had the telltale smell of spoiled milk.

"That might very well be a blessing in this case," said Doug Engebretson, assistant director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Because of the smell, he said, it's unlikely that anyone would have consumed the milk. Some of the cartons were leaking, but others were sealed.

There are still no confirmed cases of illnesses associated with the recalled milk. Listeria can cause a flu-like illness called listeriosis, which is especially dangerous in newborns, pregnant women and people with serious illnesses such as cancer or AIDS who have suppressed immune systems. Engebretson said the only pattern inspectors found at the plant was the presence of Listeria near and under packaging machines, but not where it would come into contact with products.

Kohler packages small-quantity products for other dairy companies that don't have specialty-packaging equipment in their own plants. The recalled products were packaged for Becker's, Dairy Fresh, Hardee's, Kemps, Kohler Mix, Land O'Lakes, Muller Pinehurst, Oak Grove, Perkins, Roundy's and Wendy's. They have the plant code of PLT 27-416 printed on the top of the carton alongside the product's expiration date. The Kohler Mix hot line, for further information about the recall, is 1-800-446-0994.

Editor fired from AMA journal blasts organization

February 17, 1999 Associated Press
CHICAGO - The recently fired editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association said he battled almost daily with AMA leaders, members and lobbyists to retain editorial independence. In an interview published in Wednesday's Chicago Tribune, Dr. George Lundberg said he and his editorial staff endured constant pressure, including threats and intimidation, during his 17 years running the journal.

"I don't think a day went by in considering what to publish that I and my editorial staff didn't have to worry about offending AMA members, AMA politicians and the AMA Washington office by what we published," Lundberg said.

Pressure came in the form of telephone calls from irate AMA members and letters from state medical societies and AMA officers "threatening political action against the editor and the journal for publishing what offended them ideologically, or more likely imposed on (physicians') ability to earn money," Lundberg said. He did not discuss specific incidents.

AMA executive Vice President E. Ratcliffe Anderson Jr. fired Lundberg on Jan. 15 after JAMA published a survey of college students' sexual attitudes that coincided with President Clinton's impeachment trial. Anderson said the article inappropriately interjected the organization into a political debate. The AMA and Lundberg later reached an agreement that will let him contribute articles to the publication. The Tribune said the AMA declined to address Lundberg's comments.

Lundberg said AMA public relations staffers would make efforts to obtain copies of JAMA articles prior to publication so they could "spin them for the AMA's corporate interests." He said he resisted the intimidation and received strong support from the JAMA editorial board when he was there. "The editor's job is to edit the journal for patients," he said.

Lundberg, 65, commutes weekly to Harvard University, where he is an adjunct professor of health policy, and is now a lecturer at Northwestern University's medical and journalism schools.

Genetically modified food: whistleblower validated

February 13 1999 L Times.  Pusztai asked to leave and to remain silent 
TONY BLAIR was staving off calls for a ban on genetically modified food last night after a claim that because of it, hundreds of people could die as a result of a simple flu outbreak, and that cancer rates could rise.

The Prime Minister and Jack Cunningham, the Cabinet "enforcer", were under pressure to explain why the Government had been quick to stop the sale of beef on the bone in the "mad cow" disease scare while taking a seemingly far more relaxed attitude to GM food. Friends of the Earth also claimed that Mr Blair had been urged by President Clinton to ease the way for the commercialisation of GM foods.

The ministers found themselves in the firing line after 20 international experts backed the fears of a publicly discredited scientist who last year raised serious doubts about the safety of GM potatoes.

Arpad Pusztai was suspended in August from the Government-funded Rowett Institute in Aberdeen and forced into early retirement after claiming that laboratory rats fed with GM potatoes had suffered damage to their immune systems and internal organs.

Yesterday, he found support from a conference of experts at Westminster. One of them, Ronald Finn of Liverpool University, said: "If it is proved conclusively that GM food damages the immune system then we can expect a spiralling of cancer rates."

The past president of the British Society of Allergy and Environmental Medicine said: "Dr Pusztai's results to date at the very least raise the suspicion that genetically modified potatoes may damage the immune system." If that happened the consequences of something like a flu epidemic, which currently might lead to a small number of deaths, could be much more serious, he said. "You can imagine a doomsday scenario. If the immune system of the population was weakened, then the mortality would be increased many, many times."

Mr Blair insisted that there was as yet no scientific justification for a moratorium on GM foods. "There is no GM food that can be sold in this country without going through a very long regulatory process," he told a BBC local radio station. "Let's proceed on the basis of genuine scientific analysis and inquiry, proceed with very great care and caution and not get the facts mixed up."

The head of the Rowett Institute, Philip James, who ordered Dr Pusztai's suspension, said he was mystified by the claims of the scientists who were now supporting him. "I am not embarrassed. I am intrigued as to what they have seen that I haven't had the opportunity of looking at," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. He said that Dr Pusztai had been suspended under "standard, routine procedures" and that he had always been a "strong supporter" of his research work.

Professor James helped to draw up the plans for the Government's food standards agency and is widely tipped to be its first head. He strongly denied that he had been responding to political or commercial pressures when he ordered Dr Pusztai's suspension.

Dr Cunningham rejected claims by Charles Secrett, executive director of Friends of the Earth, that President Clinton had put pressure on Mr Blair over GM foods. Mr Secrett said: "If that type of pressure has occurred, as we suspect, then it helps to explain why the Government is doing all that it can to rush through these potentially very dangerous crops and foods before adequate testing has been carried out." Dr Cunningham said: "I absolutely reject allegations that somehow the UK Government, the Prime Minister, or the rest of us are bowing to pressure from the American Government or from American businessmen."

Dr Cunningham also said that in respect of the beef-on-the-bone ban, the Government had clear advice from its advisory bodies to act; there was no similar advice in respect to GM food.

When Dr Pusztai's findings about GM potatoes became known, he was accused of having muddled his results. A subsequent review at the laboratory concluded that his experiments did not support any suggestion that the potatoes had any effect on the growth, organ development or immune function of the rats.

Yesterday, his backers said that re-examination of Dr Pusztai's results showed exactly the kind of damage denied in the laboratory's review. They gave their support to an alternative report of the experiments, so far unpublished.

Professor Finn, of the Department of Medicine at Liverpool University, said: "The two reports just do not add up. I haven't seen the raw data, and it all needs repeating, but the experiments do raise the suspicion that genetically modified potatoes may damage the immune system."

Question and answers

February 13 1999 L Times
Q: What is genetically modified food?

A: Genetically modified (GM) food comes from plants to which extra genes have been introduced to provide qualities such as resistance to insects, insecticides or frost, or a longer shelf life. The genes are taken from other plants and are often introduced by attaching them to a plant virus.

Q: Is there a health risk?

A: There is no evidence of such a risk, although the technology is relatively new.

Q: But the experiments at the Rowett Research Institute showed abnormal growth and damage to the immune system.

A: The committee that reviewed the experiments conducted by Dr Arpad Pusztai said they did not justify such a conclusion. The potatoes were not intended to be sold.

Q: If Dr Pusztai's defenders are right, what does it mean for existing GM foods?

A: They claim that the virus promoter used to trigger the gene may have had some influence. If so, it does have important implications because the same promoter has been used in GM maize.

Q: Can I avoid GM foods?

A: It is increasingly difficult because GM soya is found in a huge range of products.

Q: Why doesn't the Government ban GM crops?

A: It does not believe the evidence justifies a ban. A ban on imports would breach World Trade Organisation rules.

France's Herve denies negligence in AIDS trial

Reuters North America Wed, Feb 10, 1999  By Irwin Arieff
PARIS - A former top French health official, on trial for a 1980s AIDS scandal, said Wednesday he had been left out of key staff debates on screening blood stocks for the virus but denied being an "absentee minister." Edmond Herve, Secretary of State for Health from 1984 to 1986, also told the court on the second day of the unprecedented trial that he had been unaware of any delay in clearing a U.S. screening test for AIDS until a French test was marketed.

"I was present and active and a serious government actor," said Herve, standing trial with former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius and ex-Health Minister Georgina Dufoix for manslaughter and negligence for not assuring safe blood supplies in 1985.

Thousands in France contracted AIOS from transfusions of contaminated blood. This case, brought by seven victims of whom five are now dead, will test whether ministers can be held accountable for their subordinates' actions. Fabius, Dufoix and Herve each face up to five years in prison and $86,000 in fines if convicted. Many see the trial as comeuppance for an arrogant political elite long seen as virtually immune from responsibility for its decisions.

All three have insisted they were "responsible but not guilty." Their supporters say conviction could open French leaders to all sorts of politically motivated lawsuits. During three hours of questioning Wednesday by prosecutors and presiding judge Christian Le Gunehec, Herve repeatedly testified he had been unaware of numerous debates among his own advisers until they came up at cabinet meetings.

"It is quite obvious that on extremely technical questions, I had to rely on the experts," he said at one point. He denied knowledge of a January 1985 internal memo warning of the dangers of spreading AIDS through blood products that hemophiliacs used. A heat treatment known to kill the virus had by then been on the world market for months.

France continued reimbursing hemophiliacs for use of the untreated products until October 1985. Scandal victims say the delay was to enable the state to use up its stocks before switching over to the heat-treated alternative. Herve also denied seeing a May 1985 memo, addressed to him by a subordinate, which discussed the timing of mandatory screening of blood transfusions for AIDS contamination. The memo discussed whether a screening test from the American drug maker Abbott should be delayed for clearance for the French market while France's own Pasteur Institute completed development of its own rival product.

Herve said he was not involved in this until a mid-May Cabinet meeting. The government soon afterward approved the Pasteur test and ordered mandatory screening to begin in July. The U.S. test was not approved until August.

Judge Le Gunehec sounded like a teacher lecturing a student when he told Herve that ministers, though not expected to be technical experts, "had the political responsibility to manage." "There were hesitations among experts, but the moment came when you were aware of the risk of transmitting AIDS via transfusions and blood products," the judge said.

Victims' groups estimate that at least 3,600 people were infected and more than a thousand died due to delays in screening transfusions and heat-treating the blood products hemophiliacs use to control bleeding.

Under relentless questioning, Herve defended his decision not to sign a June 1983 circular recommending blood donors be screened for high-risk activities like gay sex and drug abuse. He said the press had criticized screening as an attack on individual freedom at a time AIDS was seen as a minor threat.

To refuse an individual's blood donation "goes against the spirit of giving," he added. Asked why the state never moved to stop gathering blood from prisoners, another high-risk group, Herve said he had never been asked to do so.

France reports one new case of mad cow disease

February 15, 1999 Reuters 
The Agriculture Ministry was cited as saying that one new case of mad cow disease has been discovered in France, bringing to 6 the number of cattle found suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the country this year.The case was the 55th to be detected in France,. The animal was born in October 1993 in the Sarthe " d»partement " and was part of a herd of 127 cattle destroyed at the end of last week

En date du 15 F»vrier l'agence Reuters annonce qu'un nouveau cas de vache folle a »t» d»tect» dans la Sarthe, le sixiňme r»pertori» en France depuis le d»but de l'ann»e et le 55e depuis 1990. L'animal atteint »tait une vache laitiňre n»e en octobre 1993 dans un »levage de la Sarthe.

Statistics on BSE situation in Portugal

Mon, 15 Feb 1999 Portugese Ministry of Agriculture
webmaster site visit
Some 39 cows were tested in December 1998 for Encefalopatia Espongiforme dos Bovinos of which 20 were confirmed positive, mostly from the province of Entre Douro e Minho. In January 1999, 38 brains were collected for testing.

At these rates, they are running 240 cases a year, much higher than the 123 reported for all of 1998 (they started reporting more seriously in mid-1998 as I recall). The grand total so far is 217 cases, beginning with some imported animals in 1990 and local animals in 1994.

The graphics and tables go on at great length. They even have a table listing the particulars on every single one of the 217 reported cases. This is far more detail than we have on nvCJD for example.

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