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More madness over cow bones in English water filters
Billions spent on BSE bailout
Tests for Alzheimer's disease
Why do they call it the 14-3-3 test?
Wrong to use CJD woman's eyes for transplants
Thousands of animals to be infected in BSE experiment
Ministry to aid research into farmer's pesticide BSE theory

More madness over cow bones in English water filters

By DIRK BEVERIDGE, The Associated Press April 8, 1998
After stirring up a ruckus with vegetarians by filtering water through charcoaled cattle bones, an English utility said Tuesday it's looking for less controversial ways to keep the supply clean. Yorkshire Water PLC said it would "continue to consult closely" with the vegetarians, while assuring the handful of affected rural customers that their water is safe.

"There is a whole vast array of treatment processes that are available," Yorkshire Water spokesman Richard Sears said. "All are not suitable for every water treatment plant."

Before the Vegetarian Society started complaining, the charcoal cow filters seemed perfect for remote areas of the Yorkshire moors, where water is frequently discolored by peaty minerals after a heavy rainfall. Yorkshire Water's filters are made from the brittle bones of sacred Indian cattle that live to an old age because of religious custom. Yorkshire Water has always said none of the infamous British "mad cows" were ever carbonized into the charcoal.

The utility said Tuesday that no good alternatives had immediately been found for the 11 small filtration plants that use the cow bones, but that it's still investigating -- without making any promises.

"We've got through the first hurdle," enthused Chris Dessent, a spokesman at the Vegetarian Society. "Yorkshire Water is admitting there is a problem."

The dispute gained new momentum in December when Yorkshire Water complained to advertising regulators about a one-time newspaper advertisement taken out by the vegetarian group showing a dead cow by a water well.

"In some parts of the world, dead cows can end up in the drinking water," the headline read. "In some parts of Yorkshire, they're put there."The message continued: "If you're a vegetarian, or wish to avoid meat, you'd think you'd be safe with a glass of ordinary tap water. Not in North Yorkshire."

Just 2,868 of Yorkshire Water's 4.5 million customers are affected. But it was an emotive appeal in a land where 6 percent of the 58 million residents are believed to be vegetarian and animal rights are a significant political issue.

The Advertising Standards Authority planned to issue a ruling Wednesday siding with Yorkshire Water on two out of three counts.The ruling, which carries no sanctions, finds the ad "offensive and distressing because of the gratuitous use of the headline and the photograph," and also "unfairly denigratory to Yorkshire Water.

"Despite that, the ad was not "misleading and irresponsible," as Yorkshire Water had contended, the ruling says. After the charcoaled cows made news last summer, Yorkshire Water had said it could not cater to the "individual dietary needs or individual religious, ethical or medical needs" of all customers.

Billions spent on BSE bailout

Apr. 7 /98 PA News Martin Hickman
U.K. Deputy Agriculture Minister Jeff Rooker was cited as saying in a reply in the Commons that between 1993 and 1998, payments to farmers, abattoir owners, renderers and the hide industry totalled 1.638 billion pounds. In a separate Commons reply, he revealed the number of cattle over 30 months old slaughtered to contain the crisis has topped two million. Of the 2.2 million animals destroyed, 128,000 have been incinerated. The rest have been turned into tallow and meat and bone meal (MBM).

A total of 314,000 tonnes of MBM is in store pending destruction. Outlining the cost of BSE compensation, Mr Rooker said that between mid-1993 and mid-1996 payments - all to meat producers - totalled 57 million. But during 1996-97 that figure rose sharply to 1.077 billion. Meat producers received 904 million, the "slaughter sector" 82 million, renderers 87 million and the hide industry 4 million. In 1997-98, producers were expected to get 439 million and renderers 65 - a total of 504 million.

Tests for Alzheimer's disease

April 7, 1998 Reuters News Service 
A panel of experts said Tuesday that genetic testing may be one of the best ways to verify if someone has Alzheimer's disease. The international group of scientists said it was proposing the first set of criteria for physical tests of Alzheimer's, which can be very hard to diagnose.

"We've heard many claims about possible indicators for Alzheimer's disease, such as an eye-drop test, a skin test and several possible genetic links," said Zaven Khachaturian, director of the Alzheimer's Association Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute, which sponsored the study."Each time there is an announcement, the association and its local chapters, doctors and other health care professionals get bombarded with questions. This (study) proposes the first standard against which these claims can be assessed," Khachaturian said.

The panel, whose findings are published in the April issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, said that for early-onset Alzheimer's disease that runs in families, doctors can testfor known mutations in the presenilin 1, presenilin 2 and amyloid precursor protein genes.

"These mutations are relatively rare. Only 120 families worldwide are currently known to carry these mutations," the Alzheimer's Association said in a statement."Testing should be limited to those with a family history of early-onset Alzheimer's.

"For late-onset and sporadic Alzheimer's disease, a check for a certain mutation of the APOE gene, known as APOE4, can help a diagnosis made on the basis of psychiatric tests. It should not be used as the only test and is "not appropriate" for people who have no symptoms of Alzheimer's, the panel said. No other tests were truly appropriate, the panel decided.

"These include amyloid deposits in skin (skin test), pupil dilation in response to dilute solution of tropicamide (eye-drop test), neuronal thread proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (AD7C) and serum levels of iron binding protein p97," the Alzheimer's Association said.

"Tests of cerebrospinal fluid for abnormal levels of indicator proteins, known as Ab42 and tau, come closest to fulfilling the criteria for a useful biomarker," it said. Early detection helps scientists to track the course of the disease and test the effectiveness of potential treatments to slow its progression, the Alzheimer's Association said.

It could also help doctors prescribe drugs early and assist affected people and their families in planning for the future.About 4 million Americans, including former President Reagan, have Alzheimer's. There is no cure, but drugs and even the herb gingko can ease its effects.

Alzheimer-cancer link possible

UPI US & World  Wed, Apr 15, 1998
CLEVELAND -- A Case Western Reserve University study has found a possible link between Alzheimer's disease and cancer. The study, published today in The Journal of Neuroscience, found a trigger in brain tissues that's said to lead cells to start dividing just before they die.

Researchers led by Dr. Karl Herrup determined neurons in Alzheimer's patients' brains produced proteins that trigger cell division. Physicians had believed neurons in adults -- brain cells that hold memories -- do not divide.

Herrup told UPI today: "When we think about Alzheimer's disease, we think about the clinical symptoms of dementia and other behavioral changes, and the question really is 'Why does that happen?' There is a dramatic cell loss. That explains the dementia, but now the question becomes "Why did those cells die? They were healthy 20 years ago. What happened?'"

He believes the death process is initiated by cells trying to divide. "The neurons in the adult brain are trying to go through the cell-cycle again."

Herrup said there may be a link between cancer, some forms of which are curable, and the incurable Alzheimer's disease. But he said: "The analogy only runs so deep. In both diseases, it looks as though there's a loss of cell cycle control. What happens in cancer is that the cells begin to divide -- go through the cell cycle in an uncontrolled way."

Why do they call it the 14-3-3 test?

Kelvin Lee, Cornell 7 April 98
"I was a coauthor on the New Engl J paper. 14-3-3 was the first name given to this class of proteins which were first purified from brain. A series of chromatographic steps was used to purify the protein and the authors of the original paper decided to choose a name which correlated with the original purification procedure. The proteins came out in the 3rd fraction from the 3rd fraction from the 14th fraction of a series of purifications. 14-3-3 should be a universal name (independent of language) much like p53 is p53 no matter what language people use.

As for where the test originated from - it was based on earlier work done by Mike Harrington working in Carl Merrill's lab at NIH (in collaboration with Carlton Gajdusek). Mike used 2D electrophoresis to identify that a particular protein was expressed in CSF of patients with CJD. Because the 2DE technique is technically complex, the original testing procedure had limited use in a routine clinical setting.

Mike later moved to Caltech and our goal in the Sept 96 paper was to purify enough of that protein in order to determine it's genetic identity - thus leading to a immunoassay which could performed routinely. We collaborated with Gary Hsich (a med student) who was working in Joe Gibbs' group at NIH in order to help with the purification. The experiments worked and confirmed that the unknown protein (called spots p130 and p131) turned out to be 14-3-3. An coincidental benefit of the 14-3-3 family of proteins is that they are highly conserved at the amino acid sequence level so that the immunoassay works on BSE-affected cattle and scrapie-affected sheep.

Wrong to use CJD woman's eyes for transplants

 By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent Fri, 3 Apr 1998  PA News
Experts tonight called for eye transplant guidelines to be tightened up after part of the eyes of a woman suffering from CJD were given to unsuspecting patients. They said it was wrong in retrospect that the eyes of 53-year-old Marion Hamilton were used for transplant, although she also had symptoms of an unexplained neurological problem when she died last year from lung cancer.

And the special CJD and Eye Transplantation Review Team, set up by the Government, concluded that the transplants would not have gone ahead had everyone been aware of her full medical history and the doubts over her condition. The review panel, chaired by the Government's former chief scientific adviser Sir William Stewart, also criticised the fact that it took seven months after her death to confirm that she had also been suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).

Mrs Hamilton died on February 26 last year in Strathcarron Hospice in Denny, near Falkirk in Scotland. A post-mortem revealed that she died of bronchopneumonia - she also had cancer of the right lung. But the review panel report, published today, recorded that there had also been concern before she died over Mrs Hamilton's "abnormal gait and behaviour".

Her relatives agreed to a post mortem but in line with her wishes that her remains be donated for medical research, her eyes were removed and the material transferred to the Manchester Eye Bank. The opthalmologist who removed the eyes was not aware that the patient also had an undiagnosed neurological condition.

So on March 20 last year, a 39-year-old man received a corneal graft >from the donated eyes and on March 21, a similar graft was given to an 85-year-old woman.

In April, white tissue (sclerae) from Mrs Hamilton's eyes was used in reconstructive surgery for a 34-year-old man.

Proof that the donor had also had CJD as well as lung cancer only came in November last year from the consultant neuropathologist at the National CJD Surveillance Unit, the report said. The unit contacted the UK Transplant Support Service Authority (UKTSSA) immediately and other bodies involved were also notified, including the Manchester Eye Bank, the Scottish Office and Department of Health.

The three patients who had received grafts from the "potentially-infected CJD donation" were also notified, the report added.

"In each case, the decision about whether or not to remove the graft and replace it was made on the basis of the clinical judgment of the opthamologist concerned and the wishes of the patient," the review panel said.

The report concluded that staff at the Strathcarron Hospice acted in a "considered and appropriate way" to try to ensure compliance with the rules on eye donation. They also took the "proper and commendable decision" to ask for a post -mortem. But Sir William's panel identified a "breakdown in communication" between staff at Stirling Royal Infirmary, where the relevant ophthalmology and pathology departments were based, and Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary, where outreach services were based.

"We conclude that there was a breakdown in communications, perhaps due in part to the dispersed clinical arrangements in existence. "The result was that the eyes were retrieved without the retrieving officer having access to all the available information. "This was a major factor which contributed to the incident under review," today's report concluded.

The panel accepted that CJD was an extremely rare condition and it judged that, on the available evidence, the benefits of eye tissue transplantation "greatly outweigh the remote risk of contracting CJD through the use of implanted eye material". But the report concluded that even consultant ophthalmologists could be unaware of the relevant guidelines and their responsibilities, adding: "That is worrying."

It recommended that, with immediate effect, all managers, clinicians and professional bodies involved in eye tissue donation and transplantation should update their knowledge of the existing guidelines. Clear information should also be available for prospective donors or their relatives.

The panel also called for reforms, some of which could also be applied to all organ and tissue donations in the UK. The recommendations included:

:: A standardised donor form which accompanies the tissue.

:: A central register or network of registers, working to nationally-agreed standards, of all transplant material.

:: Registration of all tissue banks and adherence to common standards within them.

:: Improved dissemination of information and guidelines incorporating advice on best practice from appropriate expert bodies.

:: Improved education and standardisation of procedures used by tissue explanters.

Thousands of animals to be infected in BSE experiment

Sat, 4 Apr 1998  By Anthony Bevins, Political Editor, The Independent
A huge seven-year programme of experimentation and research into mad cow disease, involving hundreds of cattle and sheep and thousands of mice - some of them, genetically-engineered - has been quietly launched by the Government.

One Whitehall source told The Independent: "We are leading the world on research into BSE, which is quite right because we did, after all, give the world BSE in the first place."

The Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (Maff) was reluctant to divulge details of the programme, which could ultimately cost more than ?150m.

But The Independent has been told that work is being done at two sites. A number of "discreet" buildings have gone up on an estate run by the Central Veterinary Laboratory Agency, near Weybridge, Surrey - where experiments and research are being carried out into the origins of BSE, and its effect on animals and people. One source said there were 700 cows there. Other research is being carried out at a ministry site near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

Because the work involves infecting cows, sheep and mice with BSE and scrapie, the Government is probably concerned about the prospect of animal rights protests, and people living nearby might also become concerned for their safety. It is thought that residents in the Weybridge and Stratford areas are largely unaware of the nature of the BSE research.

A Maff spokesman said that up to the end of last month, the Government had spent a total of ?80m on research into BSE. No firm estimates are available, but the new research programme could eventually cost twice as much again. The Independent has been told that it is proving "a massive drain" on the Maff budget.

Conditions at the two sites are so restricted and secure that there is little human contact with the infected animals and there is an on-site veterinary hospital to deal with unrelated sickness or injury.

The ministry spokesman said work included "looking at the scrapie strains in sheep" to see if any of the strains were similar to BSE. Other work involved seeing how mice reacted to BSE. "Some of the mice have been engineered to be biologically similar, in the way they react to BSE in cows."

Government sources say that the research programme was initiated last August after the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) had urged greater co-ordination of effort.

The Independent has been told that work now being carried out is so thorough that the scientists are trying to nail down the actual source of BSE.

While the official view continued to maintain that the source was cattle feed, and that was the consensus in SEAC, all possibilities were being seriously examined. Going right back to scratch, the research teams are ruling nothing in, and nothing out - and they are even examining the theory, presented to the BSE inquiry this week, that the disease might have been caused by organophosphates.

In similar vein, maternal transmission and the contamination of milk are also being examined - in spite of all previous research showing no evidence for concern.

Ministry to aid research into farmer's BSE theory

3 April 98 Electronic Telegraph David Brown 
Mark Purdey, an organic farmer, said that the Government is to fund research into his claims that organophosphorus pesticides led to the epidemic of mad cow disease. His views have been dismissed for years by the Ministry of Agriculture.

He disclosed at the BSE inquiry in London that MAFF had called for details of research carried out by Dr Stephen Whatley, a neuroscientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, which has shown that the OP pesticide phosmet can affect prion proteins in humans and animals. The ministry has asked for more details at the request of SEAC, which studied early results. It confirmed last night that the work was being considered for funding.

According to the report, until now the 14,000 cost of the work has been funded by Mr Purdey from the proceeds of newspaper articles and private donations. If his ideas are true it means that the measures taken to eradicate BSE - the mass slaughter of cattle - were pointless, while the real cause remains in the environment.

The inquiry learned from Dr Whatley on Tuesday that his experiments had shown that phosmet was capable of modifying the risk of transmission of BSE.

The article went on to examine the history of Mr Purdey's concerns which began in 1982 when the ministry introduced compulsory twice-yearly treatment against warble fly on cattle and sheep, which uses OPs.

According to this report, in 1985, he was granted a Judicial Review in the High Court and MAFF exempted his herd from OP treatment. He carried out research and travelled the world collecting evidence to support his OP theory, but MAFF would not accept it and successive farm ministers refused to support research to prove him right or wrong. His evidence was ignored.

Even Prof Richard Lacey, of Leeds University, one of the Government's strongest critics of its handling of the BSE epidemic, turned against his theory after supporting it initially. Tom King, former Northern Ireland Secretary, attended the inquiry and said that, as Mr Purdey's MP, he had tried for years to make sure that he received a fair hearing. Mr King said: "He has raised a lot of questions and not all of them have been answered."

Sir Nicholas Phillips, the Appeal Court judge heading the inquiry, said that it was not a "scientific forum" and that people would be disappointed if they expected it to make judgments on competing theories about the origins of BSE.

But a member of the inquiry team, Prof Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, who is a geneticist and professorial fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, expressed a personal view that "more research is needed on some of these aspects".

Mad cow slaughter a mistake?

Apr. 7/98  UPI
LONDON -- The London weekly, The European, was cited as saying today that Mark Purdey, an organic farmer in western England, has proposed that the BSE epidemic in the U.K. may not be caused by feeding the cattle recycled sheep and cow brains and other animal parts to improve their performance but may be caused by a compound the government required farmers to pour liberally over the backs of their cattle in a failed attempt to wipe out warble fly, a parasite affecting a tiny percentage of the nation's animals.

The story cites Purdey as arguing that the primary trigger of the mad cow epidemic was damage from organic phospate poisoning suffered by unborn calves exposed at a critical stage of development. This line of reasoning, he says, fits the facts of the epidemic much better than the animal feed theory.

For example, large quantities of the same animal feed ingredients incriminated in the UK were marketed at the same time to animal feedstuff manufacturers in other countries, yet animals in those countries remained healthy. So did cattle on which organic phosphates had rarely if ever been used, such as home-reared cattle on organic farms.

Purdey says he thinks much of the harm may have been done by a phosphate known as phosmet. It was painted on the backs of cattle so it would penetrate the hide and enter the animal's system. Phosmet is unique in that it contains phthalamide, a member of the family of chemicals that includes thalidomide, the drug that produced many deformed babies.

It was used almost exclusively by British dairy farmers in 1985 when regulations made it more difficult for them to use other organic phosphates.

Scientists to infect animals as part of BSE research

PA News By Sian Clare  Sat, Apr 4, 1998
Cattle, sheep and mice are being infected with BSE as part of a massive research project to discover the true cause of "mad cow disease", the Government confirmed today.

Work has already started at the Central Veterinary Laboratory Agency, near Weybridge, Surrey, and at a Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food site near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. The seven-year programme, quietly announced in a report last summer, is intended to be as thorough as possible and will rule nothing in and nothing out as a cause of the disease.

While Government scientists still maintain that cattle feed was the source of BSE, the research teams will also consider organo-phosphates -- chemicals widely used in agriculture -- as a possible cause. Researchers will also look at maternal transmission of the disease and at the contamination of milk, a Ministry spokeswoman confirmed.

Today Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrats' food spokesman and chairman of the all-party organo-phosphates group, welcomed the research.

"I and other MPs from farming areas were asking questions along these lines four years ago and were dismissed with the most extraordinary complacency by the last Government. "It would seem as if our warnings have at long last been taken to heart. I hate to think what devastation could have been avoided -- both financial and human misery," he said.

The experiments will use hundreds of cows and sheep, and thousands of mice.

Some of the animals will be infected with scrapie, the sheep disease, to see if any of the strains are similar to BSE.

Mice, some of them genetically engineered to make them biologically similar to cows in the way they react to BSE, will also be infected.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said the research was costing 10 million a year. Scientists would look at how far BSE spread through different tissues, she said. But she denied that local residents living near the research centres had been kept in the dark over the true nature of the experiments. Proper, open planning procedures had been used, she said, and there was no risk to local residents.

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