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BSE in lamb clue '10 years old'
Ministry accused of blocking BSE tracker
News round-up
Ecuador denies first cases of mad cow disease
BSE in sheep warning confuses shoppers
I'll keep eating lamb, says minister
New web site: 'The Many Faces of CJD'
Could clone techniques wipe out mad cow disease?

News round-up

European correspondence 9 Sept 98
Scrapie and mad sheep: The Orkney Islands are reporting a prodigious rate of scrapie, with sheep dying on the fields of Orkney with one in three confirmed by MAFF vets to have prion disease. A single flock in France showed a shocking scrapie incidence, with 300 cases just surfacing now from a 1993 event. Gastrointestinal parasites were said to be a disease cofactor with both vertical and lateral transmission additionaly asserted. A case study of records of another flock in France concluded its scrapie must have been contracted from asymptomatic sheep.

At the Iceland meeting, Schreuder reported that scrapie can be detected quite early on from tonsils. Food industry people have been given a head's up to expect worse news about mad sheep in the UK shortly. However, Moira Bruce in her lecture about scrapie in Reykjavik went out of her way to say that no BSE had been found in sheep, that it was gossip all over Europe that this had been found but not true. Nora Hunter, directly after Prusiner's lecture in Iceland stating that the viral idea for scrapie was now dead and buried, said sometimes buried things come back from the dead and that he should beware. Rohwer's lab has an additional researcher looking at viral theories.

Will the new agriculture minister in the UK will be as good as Cunningham? It may depend on whether MAFF provides complete quality information. From the Phillips inquiry [testimony of Metters and Pickles], the degree of acrimony between MAFF and the Department of Health during the period of BSE emerged. DoH was basically kept in the dark on potential human health impacts. Narang thinks he can settle his lawsuit with the Public Health Service for two million pounds.

Mad deer and elk: The chronic wasting disease of deer researchers are supposedly coming out with horrifying statistics of the numbers of infected animals. The deer in the wild are reaching 5% infected reportedly with CWD a major cause of death to the wild deer.

Mad cow medicinals: A list of bovine-derived medicinal and dietary materials used in the UK was shown at a recent meeting. It would have been far easier to make a list of the things that didn't contain bovine products. Simple and ubiquitous products like polysorbate were made from cattle during the peak years of the BSE epidemic. 20. The pharmaceutical industry is still going round in circles over EC regulations. Currently the EC wants no bovine products in EC pharmacueticals, no matter what country they originate from. US industry opposes this because no BSE cases have been acknowledged in the US. EC reg 97/534/EC eliminate 80% of pharmacueticals in the EC overnight; its introduction has been repeatedly delayed.

Diagnosis and treatment of CJD: A potential method of treatment is expected to appear in the press shortly [before it appears in the scientific journals]. Money to made in diagnostic techniques for nvCJD has apparently drawn in large pharmaceutical companies. One company even specializes solely in providing samples needed for testing. The bad news is that this means is that some of the companies have signed binding agreements with the Government labs in the UK and developments will be shrouded in secrecy. An Oxford group is also well along on using RNA aptamers to detect rogue prion conformation and may leapfrog the Italian group.

Blood transfusion in the UK: has stalled. The introduction of leuco-depletion has not yet taken place and replacements for many UK plasma products hasn't happened. Little has been said about risks already taken or what is being done for the people possibly already infected by blood products. A wide gap between the announcement of nvCJD in March 1996 and the announcement of the leucodepletion in June 1998 raises questions about legal liability: the UK Government could be held responsible for deaths as a result of blood transfer of nvCJD a difficult thing to prove however). Worries within the government that this could be extremely expensive may affect policy.

Blood transfusion specialists anticipate a 'second wave' of nvCJD as a result of blood products and blood transfusion. Stopping this second wave by using leucodepletion and discontinuing use of UK plasma products raised questions about the adequacy of leucodepletion -- white cells disintegrated were not taken out by the process

Media coverage of S. Dealler's new involvement in blood research reportedly did not originate from self-serving press releases but rather from stock market regulations requiring the commercial partner in the project to disclose material developments.

Ecuador Reports First Cases of Mad Cow Disease [?]

Mon, Sep 7, 1998 COMTEX Newswire  XINHUA
[This report is  implausible. More details are needed.  -- webmaster]
QUITO - Two cases of the mad cow disease have been recently confirmed in Ecuador, the first time in this South American country, putting the authorities on alert to the deadly virus, press reports said on Monday. Eight beef cattle had reportedly died of unknown diseases in the southern province of Zamora-Chinchipe and the Animal Health Services in Quito confirmed two of them had died of the mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

The causes of the other six deaths could not be determined but experts said they represented symptoms similar to the BSE. The disease might be transmitted by blood-eating bats which live in large numbers in the Amazon region, according to the experts.

The reports said health authorities have started to vaccinate cows, horses and pigs in areas threatened by the BSE and will seek to reduce the number of the bats around Zamora river by taking urgent measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic. The Agricultural Ministry has also sent experts to small and remote towns to help local farmers and herdsmen protect their cattle against the mad cow disease. "

Response received on 16 Sept 98, apparently from an Ecuadorian government official:


"The Ecuadorian Plant and Animal Health Protection Service declares officially the TOTAL ABSENCE of the MAD COW DISEASE in the country.

We know that we are compulsory to report the presence of a new disease in livestock to the World Organization for Animal Health and ask for technical assistance to carry on annalysis in order to confirm scientifically the presence or absence of any disease.

This information not confirmed, attempts to the Regulations of the World Trade Organisation and we consider a complete irresponsability to publish such news without the scientiffically confirmation and the official declarations of the Sanitary Authority of the country affected.

This has affected our exports to the neighbours countries of the Andean Community, such as the case of the last regulation of Peru that prohibits the import of our cattle, meat and derivates, presented officially in the Andean Community. This also affects the local production of meat, milk, and derivates not only between the producers as well as the consumers.

In conclussion we REJECT the information published here in this site web, and we STRONGLY recommend that news that affects the International Free Trade Agreements should be previously analized and confirmed with the National Sanitary Authorities of the country involved in such news and coordinated with the Regional Representation for the Americas of the World Organisation for Animal Health."

The General Director of the Ecuadorian Plant and Animal Health Protection Service." Comment (webmaster): Note that the story says "Animal Health Services in Quito confirmed two of them had died of the mad cow disease." This unsigned communique from does not clarify the nature of cows' illness (which was probably just rabies). Ecuador would best take up this matter with the Animal Health Services government agency in Quito or the reporter for the COMTEX Newswire XINHUA and ask for a clarification or retraction. Reporters worldwide do not generally hold back stories pending formal government confirmation of news inconvenient to that government.

BSE in sheep warning confuses shoppers

By Eileen Murphy, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News Mon, Sep 7, 1998
Consumers were left confused today after a Government BSE expert warned there was a "distinct possibility" that the disease existed among Britain's flock of 42 million sheep. The warning came as EU ministers moved to step up safety measures and after the Consumers' Association called for Government advice against young children eating lamb and other sheep meat because of fears. But the Government has stressed there is no scientific evidence of BSE in sheep.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said there was no evidence of a risk to humans and added: "Public health remains the Government's priority and we will take all reasonable measures to protect the public."

Professor Jeffrey Almond, chairman of the sheep sub-committee of the BSE watchdog SEAC, said yesterday: "I think there is a distinct possibility that BSE is out there, in the sheep population." Prof Almond told BBC Radio 4 evidence of BSE in sheep would be "a national emergency".

"The politicians would have to live with the possibility that, if they went down the road of stopping the consumption of sheep meat, 40 million animals would be destroyed, a whole industry collapsing and the consequent cost to the nation of that," he said. "To do nothing would be inappropriate while to ban lamb would be ridiculous."

In 1996 the European Commission backed a plan to ban parts of sheep and goats that are most likely to be infected with scrapie - the sheep equivalent of mad cow disease -- including the brains, eyes, spinal cord and spleen from animals over 12-months-old. Mad cow disease, or BSE, is believed to have arisen from sheep scrapie, a similar brain-wasting disease, which can be passed from one animal to another and from ewe to lamb, but not to humans.

Since 1996 only nine sheep have been tested for BSE and the Professor admitted that more needed to be done to rule any link out. He said: "We have probably not done enough." The sheep committee will meet later this month to agree a research plan as a matter of urgency.

Meanwhile EU scientists are to reinvestigate the link between BSE and lamb and agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler will resubmit a proposal to ban high risk parts of sheep from the food chain as a precautionary measure. In practice almost all lamb consumed in Britain is from animals under one year old.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union and himself a sheep farmer, stressed that there was no evidence that BSE is naturally present in the national flock. He said: "It is essential to appreciate that not a single case of BSE in sheep has been identified in commercial flocks. "We are more than confident in the quality of our British sheep meat. Scaremongering helps no one - it is in all of our interests that we listen to the facts."

John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, which represents Britain's 80,000 sheep farmers, said consumers still had confidence in sheep meat. He said: "I think the British consumer is a very sensible person and sees these food scares as nonsense and unsubstantiated speculation."

But a spokeswoman for the Consumers' Association thought differently. She explained that when the CA discovered the risk of BSE in sheep it had written to the Department of Health suggesting that consumers be given practical advice, including advice for parents of young children who had never consumed sheep-meat.

The spokeswoman said: "If the Government had issued a clear statement when we asked them to it would have been much better than individuals making conflicting statements. "I think consumers will now be thoroughly confused." A statement from the Department of Health backed SEAC's advice that "there was no evidence that BSE was present in commercial sheep and concluded that no further action to protect public or animal health was necessary".

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Richard Livsey MP, with large numbers of sheep farmers in his Brecon and Radnorshire constituency, condemned what he called "irresponsible scaremongering by scientists who should know better". The allegation that BSE may have spread to sheep could not have been made at a worse time because the bulk of this year's hill lamb crop was about to be sold, he said.

"One must now seriously question whether there is an agenda running among some publicity-seeking scientists to destroy the livestock industry. They should go back to their laboratories, do their research and prove their theories before opening their mouths to unnecessarily scare the public." Published at 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK , copyright

UK Fears over BSE in sheep

Monday, September 7, 1998 BBC News
Only nine sheep have been tested for BSE An expert has told the BBC there is a serious danger that sheep have been infected with BSE, putting the entire national flock at risk. Further research is a "matter of urgency" according to Professor Jeff Almond, chairman of the sheep sub-committee of SEAC, which advises the government on BSE.

But the President of the National Farmers' Union, Ben Gill, has hit back at what he described as "the spreading of scare stories".

At the most extreme, the UK flock of 42 million could be slaughtered if traces are found. Only nine sheep have been tested for the disease since 1996, when it was established that BSE may be in sheep. Prof. Almond said: "If we found BSE in sheep it would be a national emergency and I think politicians would have to think very hard about what the appropriate response should be." He said that sheep had been the committee's main area of concern since 1996, when BSE was established as a danger in cattle and the beef ban began.

The Consumers Association is seeking advice on whether young children, who may yet not have been exposed to infected meat, should avoid lamb. The Ministry for Agriculture has said that children are no more at risk than anyone else.

Firm evidence of BSE infection in sheep is still believed to be several years away as research is only now being stepped up.

Mr Gill disputed the need for media attention to the issue. He said there was "no news here" and attributed the renewed questioning about BSE in sheep to "an old story resurrected by an article in Nature magazine". "I don't believe spreading scare stories is the best way to support consumers," he added.

I'll keep eating lamb, says minister

 By John Von Radowitz, Medical Correspondent, PA News Mon, Sep 7, 1998
Science Minister Lord Sainsbury today vowed to carry on eating lamb, pointing out that he had a French mother who taught him food was more important than health. Lord Sainsbury was replying to questions about a warning from a senior Government advisor that BSE might have infected sheep as well as cattle.

Professor Geoffrey Almond, chairman of the sheep subcommittee of the BSE watchdog SEAC told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme: "I think there is a distinct possibility that BSE is out there in the sheep population."

Lord Sainsbury, who was attending the British Association Festival of Science at Cardiff University today, said the risk was still theoretical and factual proof was needed. But he said a call for further investigation by Professor Almond or other experts would be given "very serious attention indeed" by the Government.

Asked directly whether he would change his eating habits, Lord Sainsbury said: "I eat lamb and I will continue to eat lamb. But I'm an inherently greedy person. I had a French mother and was taught that food comes first and health comes second. "But I wouldn't put much weight on my own personal beliefs in this situation." He added that he was not worried about genetically modified food either, but again this was "absolutely a case where choice is very important".

Professor Colin Blakemore, president of the British Association, said he stopped eating lamb two years ago for health reasons unconnected with BSE. He said everything known about the disease suggested that it originated from contaminated animal feed - a problem which had now been resolved. "I don't think there's actually any reason for huge alarm at this recent finding" he said.

The Many Faces of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Correspondent at CJD Voice  Sun Sep  6, 1998
"The personal stories on this website put a human face on CJD. People tell how it affects their loved ones and how it affects them. They describe symptoms and progression of the disease as well as the problems in getting it correctly diagnosed. Everyone's experience is different so the stories are all different.

If you have been personally affected by CJD please consider contributing your story to this page.

In the future we also hope to include stories by people who have received medical treatments or have a genetic mutation that put them at risk for CJD as well as stories by people who have received notifications that the blood products they received or their children received were withdrawn from the market due to theoretical CJD risk." I am certain it will be useful to the general public as well as for health care and mental health professionals and researchers. The FACES website started up 1 Sept 98 and already has 6 stories. Many additional people are preparing their stories."

Clone techniques `could wipe out mad cow disease'

PA News  Tue, Sep 8, 1998 By John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent
Techniques used to create Dolly the famous sheep clone could one day wipe out mad cow disease in cattle, it was claimed today. In two years British scientists expect to be able to target and knock out or substitute specific genes in large mammals such as cows and sheep. If they succeed it could become possible to remove the gene producing the protein agent that spreads BSE. By culling infected herds and breeding new ones without the gene, the disease could in time be banished forever. [Deleting the gene causes loss of normal prion function and might result in severe neurological problems -- webmaster]

The research is being undertaken by scientists at the Roslin Institute Edinburgh, where Dolly was created, working in collaboration with the biotechnology company PPL Therapeutics. It aims to replicate in farm animals what has already been achieved in laboratory life - the re-jigging of genes to improve livestock or produce therapeutic proteins in milk.

PPL Therapeutics already has sheep which produce milk containing therapeutic drugs that can be used to treat haemophiliacs and other patients. But they were produced using a hit or miss scattergun approach which involves throwing DNA at a developing embryo and hoping it is taken up by the cells. The cell cloning technique used to create Dolly opens the way to much more precise manipulation of genes.

Dr Ian Garner from PPL Therapeutics said it might be possible to knock out the genetic mechanism that causes BSE. Like CJD, the disease is thought to be caused by rogue prion proteins which act in a chain reaction to destroy the brain. At the British Association Festival of Science at Cardiff University today Dr Garner said: "The bottom line is you could engineer a cow that doesn't have the PRP (prion) gene and doesn't make this prion protein that people are worried about at the moment."

Asked if this could lead to BSE being eradicated he answered: "I would say probably yes. What you would have to do is knock out the PRP in all your cows. It would be a pretty dramatic undertaking." [Britain has about 10 million cows in small herds and many specialized breeds -- webmaster]

Dr Garner said scientists working for PPL Therapeutics in Virginia, USA, had now produced a cow clone equivalent of Dolly called Mr Jefferson which was born on February 16 this year. "They're all very proud of it as you can imagine" he said.

BSE in lamb clue '10 years old'

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor  UK News  Electronic Telegraph  Tuesday 8 September 1998
SCIENTISTS knew 10 years ago that BSE could have spread from cattle to sheep but research on suspect cases was not pursued, a senior veterinary researcher claimed yesterday.

Mad Sheep may also be infected with BSE Dr Anthony Andrews, a former senior lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College in London, said he saw an unusual pattern of brain damage in four sheep from a farm in Essex around 1988. He concluded that mad cow disease could have passed into sheep - possibly through contaminated animal food.

Dr Andrews was speaking after the Government tried to play down a warning from one of its BSE advisers that the disease in sheep could pose a new "national emergency". The researcher said he felt that he was not encouraged to follow up his theory. He said: "I am not trying to blame anyone. It may be I was right at the time and we were seeing BSE in sheep. Or it could have been a novel strain of scrapie. I have since left the college and have no knowledge of what happened to the laboratory slides and the reports."

Dr Andrews left the college in January 1997 to become an independent consultant. His claim came after Prof Geoffrey Almond raised new fears over mutton and lamb yesterday. Prof Almond is chairman of the sheep sub-committee of the Government body SEAC - the Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee. He said: "There is a distinct possibility that BSE is out there in the sheep population.

"But there are several ways of viewing that. One is to say it's been out there all the time and it could be that BSE has been in sheep for hundreds of years and does not cause a problem because it doesn't transmit from sheep to humans. If, on the other hand, it's sort of gone back into sheep from cows and then is behaving somehow differently from sheep scrapie then that could pose a risk to humans." He told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today: "If we found BSE in sheep it would be a national emergency."

As farmers responded angrily to the new BSE scare, Sir Kenneth Calman, Chief Medical Officer, issued a statement saying the SEAC had discussed the "theoretical possibility" of BSE in sheep at its July 30 meeting. As a precaution, the SEAC had previously recommended that certain tissues from the lamb carcass should be removed from the food chain. It concluded that "no further action to protect the public or animal health was necessary".

So far 27 people have died from a new form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease which has been linked to BSE. Until now, it has been assumed that cattle were to blame if indeed the victims did contract the fatal disease from eating meat. Now there is a question mark over the safety of mutton and lamb.

BSE, first recognised as a fatal, new brain disease in 1986, is believed by many scientists to have been caused when cattle were fed rations containing the remains of sheep infected with a similar disease called scrapie. But sheep were also fed rations containing meat and bone meal - a practice now banned in the UK.

Dr Andrews said: "The case on the Essex farm about 1988-89 was unusual. We were not looking for BSE or for scrapie. We were trying to find out what was making these sheep ill. Post-mortem tests showed they had scrapie-like lesions in the brain. But the pattern of these lesions was not what you would expect from scrapie.

"In addition, the sheep did not display normal scrapie symptoms when they were alive. They were not rubbing themselves against something in the way scrapie-affected sheep often do. They stood, trembling. I now believe that we are talking about yesterday's problem.

"I wish more notice had been taken of these findings at the time but subsequent control measures on cattle and sheep taken by the Government in the wake of BSE have ensured that the risk to humans from eating UK sheepmeat is infinitesimal. We are now five generation of sheep on since we made these findings. I would have expected any major health problem to have surfaced by now."

He has submitted written details of his work to the public inquiry into the BSE epidemic which resumes in London tomorrow.

But Prof Lance Lanyon, principal and dean of the Royal Veterinary College, said neither he nor colleagues at the time could remember any research by Dr Andrews showing unusual brain lesions in sheep.

28 August 1998: Disease could be spread by surgical tools
18 July 1998: 70m plan to screen blood for CJD
8 July 1998: BSE bill expected to top 3.5bn by 2000
19 June 1998: Ministry had plan to use BSE 'spies'
27 December 1997: Survey to see if BSE has infected sheep
11 December 1997: New danger is lamb on bone, say scientists
25 July 1996: Controls on sheep to be tighter after BSE scare
23 July 1996: Lamb chops threatened by BSE ban

BSE inquiry to reopen amid fears of sheep infection

Tue, Sep 8, 1998 By Elisa Crawford, PA News
The BSE inquiry was resuming today amid fresh fears that the disease may have infected sheep as well as cattle. Top civil servants, private sector industries and relatives of new variant CJD victims are due to give evidence during the next phase of the hearing in Lambeth North, London, this autumn.

The witness list includes the Government's chief medical officer, Dr Kenneth Calman, who in 1994 attacked "irresponsible" newspaper reports claiming 16-year-old girl might have caught CJD after eating a contaminated burger. Other high ranking officials due to appear are former chief medical officer Sir Donald Acheson, former permanent secretary at the Department of Health, Sir Christopher France, and former chief veterinary officer, Mr Howard Rees.

The inquiry, which was set up to review the emergence and response to BSE and CJD, will then hear from government ministers, who served during the height of the crisis, in November and December.

Consumers have been hit by further confusion this week after government BSE expert Professor Jeffrey Almond warned there was a "distinct possibility" that BSE existed among Britain's flock of 42 million sheep. The warning came as EU ministers moved to step up safety measures and after the Consumers' Association called for Government advice against young children eating lamb and other sheep meat because of fears.

But the Government has stressed there is no scientific evidence of BSE in sheep. The inquiry, which started in March under the chairmanship of Appeal Court judge Sir Nicholas Phillips, was resuming today after a four week break. Two top government scientists from the Agricultural and Development Advisory Service, Professor Ronald Bell and Dr Peter Bunyan, were due to speak today. Former chief veterinary officer William Rees will give evidence tomorrow.

Ministry accused of blocking BSE tracker

Wed, Sep 9, 1998 PA News  By Elisa Crawford
The Ministry of Agriculture blocked the introduction of a nationwide cattle tracking system which would have helped the fight against mad cow disease, the BSE inquiry was told today. A former chief scientific adviser to the Government repeatedly urged the ministry in 1991 to adopt the computerised system, which would have enabled vets to trace infections to particular farms. The system, which would have boosted European confidence in the health of British herds, was subsequently adopted in Northern Ireland, where the beef ban has now been lifted.

Dr Peter Bunyan told the inquiry: "I was pressing the ministry to give this very sympathetic consideration. "At the end of the day I recognised that there were money issues and a need for Parliamentary time and so on to get this through, so it was not going to be easy. "And it was not then my problem. I had made it clear what my view was."

Dr Bunyan said civil servants had been concerned that the project may have been a waste of money if the European Community launched its own system. But, he said, he had supported the view that Britain could "blaze a trail" in the development of the new technology.

Tonight Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Paul Tyler claimed the then Agriculture Secretary, John Gummer, should take the "rap" for blocking the recommendation. "Had such a comprehensive computerised system been in place in the early 1990s, the later crisis could have been shorter and much less damaging," he said.

The BSE inquiry, which was set up to review the emergence and response to BSE and CJD, resumed today amid fresh fears that the disease may have infected sheep as well as cattle. Top civil servants, private sector industries and relatives of new variant CJD victims are due to give evidence during the next phase of the hearing in Lambeth, London, this autumn.

Mr Tyler urged the BSE inquiry to call Mr Gummer to give evidence. The Liberal Democrat MP said: "Civil servants advise, but Ministers decide. That is what the Conservatives always told us."

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