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Not one US cow offered to BSE test program
Britain heads for BSE showdown with Europe
Cunningham ready to impose beef ban
IM Pattison recalls 50 years of scrapie research
John Pattison's views on nvCJD epidemic
Swiss blood donor had brain-wasting disease
Beef sales up in UK
Doctor dies of CJD
EC to override vets, require more food safety
So where is the 1991 dog study or the cat prion sequence?
Scrapie, Norwegians, and the eating of 'smalahove'

Not one cow offered to BSE test Program

July, 4, 1997 
Capital Press, Salem,OR Tam Moore
There were lots of phone calls, but no offers of cattle to test two weeks after California scientists pleaded for research animals from U.S. veterinarians and cattle producers.

Lily Yang, head of Neuromark Corp., said a June 12 teleconference and widespread publicity in cattle trade publications generated interest in the procedure that may lead to detecting bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE. The cattle brain disease in 1996 forced British beef off the European market.

But a full two weeks after Yang and scientists from California Institute of Technology and Univeristy of California-Davis pleaded for live cattle material for testing, not one sample has been volunteered.

Yang's company is handling the development of the test, which uses molecules in spinal fluid that indicate BSE is present in the brain of cattle. Michael Harrington, a neurologist at Cal Tech, came up with the technique as a way to diagnose a human form of the ailment, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or CJD. Robert Higgins, a veterinary neurologist at UC-Davis, adapted the technique to cattle.

Yang says the scientists obtained tissue samples from England to run their first test. The result, she says, was a 98 percent correlation between results of the marker test and post-death examination of the animals when traditional viewing of brain sections confirmed BSE.

There's pressure from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get a reliable live animal BSE test, Yang said. She speculated that the reluctance of veterinarians and producers to volunteer material for testing might come from a fear that the research could actually turn up a BSE case. The disease has never been confirmed in U.S. cattle.

Getting the test perfected is a safeguard, said Yang, pointing to the fact that similar brain disease has been found in U.S. elk and deer, among other animals.

A live animal test would let veterinarians isolate suspected carriers of BSE, providing traditional mamagement opportunities used in other animal disease situations. The current U.S. Bse surveillance program uses a spot-check of brain tissue taken from animals after commercial slaughter.

Scientists, including those from USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, speculate that the condition turns up spontaneously in some animals. Last week APHIS confirmed that it has a national contingency plan for public information and surveillance if a BSE case should be found.

Information an the BSE diagnostic test and specifics if tissue and spinal fluid samples sought by Neuromark can be obtained by contacting Lily Yang at voice: (415) 917-0401; fax: (415) 917-1434
To get on the Neuromark information distribution list, call (800) 600-711(sic) extension 234.

Britain heads for BSE showdown

July 22 1997
Michael Hornsby, agriculture correspondent, Times 
BRITAIN is heading for a showdown today with its European Union partners over demands that they tighten controls on the processing of beef in their abattoirs to protect consumers against "mad cow" disease.

Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, meets his fellow farm ministers in Brussels to seek the introduction throughout Europe of the same strict hygiene controls as those in force in British slaughterhouses. If he fails to reach agreement, Dr Cunningham has said he will ban imports of beef from any countries that have had outbreaks of BSE and do not meet British abattoir standards. Dr Cunningham issued that ultimatum six weeks ago, saying it was "no game and no bluff", but it remains unclear whether he has the legal power to take unilateral action.

Only Ireland has abattoir controls comparable to those in Britain. Other member states have argued that the small numbers of BSE cases in their herds, often but by no means exclusively in animals imported from Britain, do not justify such measures.

The Government's scientific advisers maintain that the incidence of BSE on the Continent is higher than has been admitted and that imports now pose the only loophole in the measures taken to ensure that beef is safe to eat.

If Dr Cunningham gets his way, abattoirs throughout the EU will have to follow British practice by removing and destroying brain, spinal cord, spleen and other "risk materials" that might carry BSE.

The EU's standing veterinary committee last week rejected a proposal on those lines by eight votes to seven. Ireland, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Holland and Spain voted with Britain. Dr Cunningham will need at least one of the eight countries that voted against last week to switch sides.

Cunningham ready to impose beef ban

 Mon, Jul 21, 1997
 By Geoff Meade, European editor, PA News
Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham is poised to carry out his threat tomorrow to ban European beef which does not meet UK health standards. He will act immediately unless the other member states decide of their own accord to tighten anti-BSE controls -- and on the eve of a vote between European farm ministers the chances were put at 50-50.

Mr Cunningham says UK beef is now subject to the toughest hygiene controls in Europe in the wake of the mad cow crisis, and he has called it "absurd" to allow imports of lower standard beef from the rest of the EU when high-standard UK beef remains banned throughout the world.

"There is no question about it -- Mr Cunningham will impose the ban if necessary. He has said so in Parliament and out of Parliament and he is determined to act on grounds of public safety," said a Ministry of Agriculture spokesman today.
To avoid charges of anti-competitive trade moves, the action would not be a blanket ban, but would apply only to imported meat which did not match UK safety requirements by having high-risk offal removed before reaching the shops. But the move would put Britain at odds with those EU partners who insist the extra cost of the measures is unnecessary as they are free of BSE.

The European Commission is backing Britain, however, vowing to introduce stricter rules if the member states do not do it themselves. EU officials say no member states can confidently claim to be BSE-free, particularly when the Commission is planning court action against 10 member states because of poor hygiene controls in abattoirs.

The crunch comes at talks in Brussels and a vote on Commission proposals to remove "specified risk materials" - the brains, eyes and spinal cords of cattle sheep and goats over 12 months old and the spleen of all sheep and goats -- from the food chain. These are measures already in force in the UK.

Seven member states including the UK and Ireland are in favour, but eight - Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Finland, Italy, Austria and Portugal are against. If the line-up remains unchanged at tomorrow's talks, the tougher health measures will be thrown out, triggering the UK threat of unilateral action.

"If they don't act I will. This isn't a game," said Mr Cunningham when he announced his July 22 deadline last month.
The 7-8 line-up against the new measures was established when EU veterinary experts from the member states took a vote last week. But EU officials hope some ministers will differ from their own veterinary advisers when the member states vote definitively tomorrow.
"Otherwise they risk being accused of putting economic above human health," commented a Commission official.
Most likely candidates for a change of heart are Belgium and Portugal, swinging the result in Mr Cunningham's favour.

Swiss blood donor had brain-wasting disease

Wire Service: RTna (Reuters North America)
Date: Fri, Jul 18, 1997
An article by Paul Brown of NIH may appear soon on transmission via mouse blood Announced in March 1997 at a WHO conerence. -- webmaster

BERNE, July 18 (Reuter) - A frequent blood donor in Switzerland who died in June has been diagnosed as suffering from the fatal brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), health authorities said on Friday. The Federal Health Agency (BAG) ordered a recall of blood products and a detailed list of the man's donations from the bloodbank he frequented. But the agency said there was no medical evidence that CJD could be transmitted through blood samples. "There is no known case of CJD anywhere in the world that has been connected to blood transfusions from an infected donor," the agency said in a statement. It said the man died last month, aged 64, but did not identify him or the centre where he donated. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is the human variant of so-called "mad cow disease" or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Scientists have said there is a potential link between eating beef from infected cattle and developing CJD. Switzerland has the world second-highest number of mad cow cases after Britain. The Swiss health agency said it had ordered the blood bank to produce a detailed list of the man's transfusions and the blood products made from them, which were to be recalled immediately It also ordered the blood bank to produce a list of people who may have received transfusions of the man's blood. "These recipients will be informed as quickly as possible and will be given professional counselling," the agency said. It said more details would be provided at a news conference next Monday in Berne.

Swiss say 21 patients got blood from CJD victim

 Mon, Jul 21, 1997
 Reuters World Report 
BERNE, July 21 (Reuter) - Twenty-one people in Switzerland received blood products from a donor who later died of the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), health officials said on Monday. The Federal Health Agency (BAG) and the Swiss Red Cross said there was no medical evidence that CJD could be transmitted through blood samples.

It is the first time in Switerland that a frequent blood donor was found to have been a victim of the rare brain disease, which can only be diagnosed after death, BAG deputy director Diethelm Hartmann told reprters. The agency first made the case public on Friday when it ordered a recall of products made from the blood of the unnamed donor, who died last month aged 64.

It also ordered the Red Cross to draw up a list of people who may have received those products in the past 10 years, when the donor was active. Red Cross documentation led to 21 people who had received either blood or plasma from the donor over the years.

Hartmann said his agency would be contacting the physicians of these 21 recipients, mainly older people, in the coming days to help them reassure their patients.

"Based on studies, we can assume that the risk of CJD infection for a (blood donation) recipient can be ruled out with a probability bordering on certainty," Hartmann said.
Hartmann also said the type of CJD diagnosed in the dead blood donor was different from a variety linked to so-called mad cow disease or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). Scientists have said there is a potential link between eating beef from infected cattle and developing CJD.

Is CJD Transmitted in Blood?

Emerg Infect Dis 1997 Apr;3(2):155-163  free fulltext
Maura N. Ricketts, Neil R. Cashman,Elizabeth E. Stratton, Susie ElSaadany
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) has been considered infectious since the mid-1960s, but its transmissibility through the transfusion of blood or blood products is controversial. The causative agent's novel undefined nature and resistance to standard decontamination, the absence of a screening test, and the recognition that even rare cases of transmission may be unacceptable have led to the revision of policies and procedures worldwide affecting all facets of blood product manufacturing from blood collection to transfusion. We reviewed current evidence that CJD is transmitted through blood.

The proportion of polymorphism among persons with sporadic CJD is more similar to the proportion of polymorphism among persons with iatrogenic CJD than to that in the general population (Table 2), which suggests that simple stochastic events do not fully explain sporadic CJD; were that so, the distribution of homozygosity would be the same in both healthy controls and persons with sporadic cases. The clinical symptoms in patients with iatrogenic and with sporadic CJD have been compared and are indistinguishable (18).

Table 2. Amino acid phenotypes for codon 129 in patients with iatrogenic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Tested groupsMet/MetMet/ValVal/ValHomozygousTotal tested
Sporadic CJD (38) 78 12 10 88 73
All Iatrogenic 60 11 29 89 63
CNS route of infection 80 10 10 98 20
Peripheral route of infection 51 12 37 88 43
Healthy controls (27) 37 51 11 49 261
Healthy controls (38) 48 42 10 58 1397

Blood donated after vaccination with rabies vaccine derived from sheep brain cells might transmit CJD

BMJ 1996 Nov 30;313(7069):1405 [LETTER]
Arya SC

Why we still haven't seen the 1991 dog study or the cat prion sequence?

London Correspondent 17 July 1997
Question: Why can't the new Labour Government get MAFF to cough up their 1991 study on BSE-to-dogs or the 1996 Goldmann sequence of cat prion?

Reacall the report by Roger Highfield (Science Editor, Daily Telegraph) at the end of April about a Norwegian dog:

'Brain sections from a dog have been sent to Britain by Norwegian pathologists to confirm that it is the first example of canine spongiform disease, akin to BSE. The move came as Labour accused the Government of excessive secrecy for not publishing results of a 1991 study to investigate the possibility of BSE being transferred to dogs. The 11-year-old labrador suffered nervous symptoms, lack of muscle co-ordination and seizures. A post mortem examination showed that its brain had a spongiform appearance, said Prof Jon Teige, a pathologist at the Norwegian College of Veterinary Medicine in Oslo. "To our surprise, we saw these lesions in the brain similar to those observed in scrapie in sheep and mad cow disease," said Prof Teige. If confirmed, it would mark the first example of the disease in a dog. Samples have had been sent to the Institute of Animal Health's neuropathogenesis unit in Edinburgh for a second opinion. "Although there are some features of the pathology in common with spongiform encephalopathies, a number of other conditions have similar aspects," said Dr Chris Bostock, of the institute.
Chris Bostock has said in private correspondence on 17 July 1997 that:
"Scientists at IAH's NPU have completed the neuropathological examination of post mortem material taken from the Norwegian dog with a suspected TSE with which they were supplied, but they were unable to confirm positively a diagnosis of a TSE. There is no further work ongoing - eg mouse bioassay."
Response: (London Correspondent)
The Government is the Civil Service (permanent government employees) directed by the elected party's ministers. Whenever the government is referred to it means the political party in power at any given time. So when the current Labour administration refers to a government cover-up of the dogs report it means the previous Conservative administration.

There is a significant difference between the US system of government and ours. Every UK government department is headed by a Civil Servant (permanent government employee remember, not a political appointment) called the Permanent under Secretary (PUS), whose function includes a major policy role.. His boss is a minister in the current administration (Labour currently) whose official title is Secretary of State (note not permanent because he is elected, and not under because he is the boss). In theory PUS therefore provides continuity across changes of administration. I understand that in your (more democratic) system your equivalent of PUS is a political appointment?

The disadvantage of our system is that PUS always has a better grasp of his department than his minister for at least a couple of years after a change of administration. Like all bureaucrats they prefer the status quo, block change, and find public examination of their departments anathema (we don't have a freedom of information act here). Consequently new ministers find it very difficult to change anything and often become puppets of their civil servants. Politicians have become fed up with this and now bring in their own "political advisors" to take over the policy role from PUS. Mrs Thatcher started this trend, Mr Blair has taken it on board with a vengeance and the Civil Service is currently in a state of shock.

The Labour administration has had varying degrees of success at levering the policy role from the Civil Service, on one extreme the Treasury is effectively completely taken over by the politicians, on the other the PUS at MAFF has completely dominated his Minister and the new political advisors to the extent that the public interest is now of no consequence at all. You may have noted the recent environment ministry report stating that research indicates burning cow remnants in power stations is perfectly safe. The statement gave the impression that this was new research, in fact it was old research and the data, interpretation, and conclusions came from MAFF. Burning cattle remains in power stations is the cheapest method of disposal for MAFF.

The environment minister in the previous Conservative administration would not have touched BSE with a bargepole and therefore it would seem that the new Labour environment minister is not fully in control. In fact the environment minister is the only real socialist in the government and he has been given both Environment (one of the largest departments anyway) and Transport to keep him snowed under with work and out of harms way. His inclusion in the government at all is only to keep the left (socialist) wing of the Labour party onside during the election. It all fits together nicely doesn't it?

British beef sales back to pre-BSE levels

Wire Service:  PA News 
Date: Fri, Jul 18, 1997
By Jo Butler, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, PA News
Surging consumer confidence in British beef has pushed sales back to pre-BSE levels for the first time. June figures are up 0.6% on sales for the same time two years ago. The Meat and Livestock commission said the figures were the first to exceed 1995 levels and demonstrated "a huge vote of confidence" by consumers.

The decision of burger giants Burger King and McDonald's and schools to return to British beef helped push up the figures, which cover both fresh and frozen beef. But prices for farmers are still seriously deflated at around 97p per kg liveweight. Although this is an increase on the 16-year low of 90p experienced earlier this month, they are still a long way off the 120p reached prior to the crisis.

Gwyn Howells, marketing director for the Meat and Livestock Commission said:

"A lot of hard work has gone into restoring confidence in British beef and these figures are a testament to the efforts of the whole industry. "These figures show beef is well and truly back on the menu."
A spokeswoman for the National Farmers' Union hailed the figures as very encouraging.
"This is marvellous news for farmers and it's an enormous morale boost. "We just hope that the trend continues," she said. "Farmers are still suffering from rock bottom prices - that's why it is very encouraging to know that sales are up."
The Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) said the figures only covered sales of beef eaten at home. Figures for catering - including restaurants and fast food chains - will not be known until the autumn.

But an MLC spokesman said consumer faith in beef had undoubtedly been encouraged by the decision of local education authorities (LEAs) and burger chains to return to home-produced meat. A total of 93 of the country's 186 LEAs now serve up beef to school children. McDonald's and Burger King announced at the end of June they would begin putting British beef in their burgers. The autumn catering figures are expected to reveal increases reflecting this investment. McDonald's expects to spend about 30 million a year on British beef.

British beef sales first began to drop in the autumn of 1995 following concern over mad cow disease. The announcement in March 1996 that scientists believed they had identified a link between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease sent sales into freefall.

Reminiscence by I. H. Pattison

18 Jul 1997 submitted by Robert A. LaBudde <>
While I was prowling through old Veterinary Record issues for Wilesmith articles, I came across "Fifty years with scrapie: A personal reminiscence" by I. H. Pattison (Veterinary Record, Dec. 1988, pp. 661-666).

Alper, Haig & Clarke. 1966. Biochem. and Biophys. Res. Comm. 22, 278. ".. the evidence that no inactivation results from exposure to a huge dose of ultraviolet light, of wavelength specifically absorbed by nucleic acids, suggests that the agent may be able to increase in quantity without itself containing nucleic acid."

Alper et al. 1997. Nature 214, 764. ".. scrapie is most unlikely to depend on a nucleic acid moiety for its replication ability."

Pattison & Jones. 1967. Veter. Rec. 80, 1. "the scrapie transmission agent may be, or may be associated with, a small basic [i.e., vs. acid] protein."

Pattison remembers the great antagonism and skepticism his group received from establishment scientists on this issue.

Apparently he was also somewhat annoyed that Prusinger (1982. Science 216, 136) attempted re-invent the concept as a "prion" in 1982, to the point he responded with a letter to Nature (1982. 299, 200) to point out again his 1960's speculations and work.

A very interesting study done by Pattison and Smith in 1963 (Res. in Veter. Sci. 4, 269). A large number of mice where inoculated intracerebrally with dilutions to 1:1,000,000 of normal or scrapie mouse brain. Groups were killed every 14 days, from 14 to 168 days. Earliest histological lesions were seen at 56 days, and earliest clinical signs at 112 days. This experience sheds some light on the span of time over which an asymptomatic cow might be carrying BSE. Of course, some disease would have to be present before the formation of lesions, but this does show lesions existed at periods of only 50% of the time to overt symptoms.

Expert rules out mad cow epidemic

18  July 1997
 By Finlay Marshall, Parliamentary Staff, PA News.
The man who warned that the human form of mad cow disease could kill hundreds of thousands of people said today that as a result of new research fears of an epidemic were unfounded.

Professor John Paterson, head of the government scientific team investigating BSE said: "I think our worst fears are not going to be realised. Last year I said that there might be a few more cases or there might be hundreds of thousands.

"I now think that the probability of hundreds of thousands of cases is so low I have discounted it. But one can't really go any further than that at this stage," he told The World at One on BBC Radio 4.
On the same programme former health minister Stephen Dorrell said that at the time he and Professor Paterson made their announcement cases could have gone either way.
"We both said to ourselves many times that it was important that the words we used then were accurate on the basis of the science that was available then and we both recognised and said many times that those words would be re-examined years later when people knew what we didn't know then."
Mr Dorrell said his concern was not to apply a spin to the Professor's figures which was not justified. When it was put to him that the effects of the warnings had changed public attitudes to meat, possibly for ever, and had massive effects on the meat industry Mr Dorrell said: "We also have to remember this wasn't an announcement that came onto virgin territory. This was an issue in terms of the development of BSE in the cattle herd and predictions that had been made associated with that over a very long period.
"Public concern, therefore, had already been aroused and the way in which scientific evidence appeared to change fed those concerns. The only way I think of dealing with this kind of issue in a democracy is to set the facts before the public in the clearest possible language."

Food safety plan sent to European Union farm ministers

BRUSSELS (July 17, 1997 12:45 p.m. EDT) - The European Commission will ask EU farm ministers next week to OK a proposal to protect consumers from mad cow disease, despite its rejection by member state veterinary officials, the Commission said on Thursday.

The EU Standing Veterinary Committee on Wednesday rejected by eight votes to seven plans to remove risky animal tissue from human and animal food to help eradicate the fatal cattle brain disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

"It was unacceptable, given the public concern about BSE, that some member states refuse to apply necessary precautions to protect human and animal health," EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said in a statement.
Fischler said he hoped the proposal will now be approved by EU farm ministers when they meet on July 22-23.

One extra vote in favour, giving a simple majority, would enable the EU's executive to implement the proposal to remove the brain, eyes, tonsils and spinal cord of cattle, sheep and goats over 12 months of age.

European Commission officials said some ministers, sensitive to public opinion, could vote differently from their officials.

"Otherwise they risk being accused of putting economics above human health," said a Commission spokesman.
EU sources said Portugal, Belgium and Finland were the the most likely to switch positions and vote for the change. In December, only Britain, Ireland, France, Sweden and Luxembourg supported a similar proposal. Since then, the Netherlands, where two cases of BSE have been reported, and Spain have swung round in favour.

Other countries argued that removal of the material was an unnecessary expense as they were free of BSE and scrapie, a similar brain disease in sheep. But the Commission says that no country could be considered totally free of BSE because inspections and controls were often inadequate. Following critical EU inspectors' reports, it has started legal action against 10 countries for failing to respect rules aimed at stamping out mad cow disease.

Britain, which already removes the risky animal tissue, has warned that if the Commission's proposal is not approved next week it will ensure that beef imports comply with rigorous British food safety standards.

Hospital doctor dies from CJD

July 15 1997  BY PAUL WILKINSON The Times
A HOSPITAL doctor has died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease more than 20 years after being treated with a contaminated batch of growth hormone. Neil Kreibich, 37, a married father of three, is thought to have contracted the disease from the hormone.

Until he was diagnosed as a possible victim of CJD the human form of "mad cow" disease more than a year ago, he worked as an orthopaedic surgeon at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. A post-mortem examination will be carried out today.

Growth hormone injections made from the glands of humans were used until the mid-1980s to treat people who suffered from stunted growth in their youth. Nine people across Britain are believed to have died from CJD after being treated with contaminated hormones from the pituitary glands of corpses.

A spokeswoman for County Durham Health Authority said: "It is important to stress that it [CJD] cannot be passed from person to person. Some people may be concerned but there is no reason to be."

Mr Kreibich qualified in 1984 at Newcastle University. He worked at hospitals in Newcastle, Sheffield and Canada. CJD can be confirmed only by a post-mortem examination, but when doctors told him of their suspicions, he and his wife Liz set up a trust fund for their children.

Yesterday his family said in a statement: "Neil died peacefully on July 11 from an illness believed to be Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. His family would like to thank all those people who have offered their kindness and support."

Mrs Kreibich and their children Anna, 5, William, 3, and Robert, 1, were being comforted by friends at their home in Jesmond, Newcastle. Phil Taylor, a Newcastle GP and a close friend of Mr Kreibich, said: "He had growth hormone treatment 20 years ago and, as we now know, some batches were infected. The disease meant his co-ordination began to go. He needed a lot of nursing and Liz helped him tremendously, as did the social services and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

"Neil was tremendously well-liked. He was a great family man and a respected surgeon."

Fill Norwegians continue to eat sheep brains?

20 July 1997 Commentary from Norway
The Norwegians are going to have to change some public policy in the wake of the study showing no absolute barrier to transmission of scrapie to humans. Scrapie is growing in Norway, with over 100 000 sheep slaughtered as a preventative measure, and the National Health Board stating that eating sheep brains ("smalahove", traditional Norwegian food) is quite all right because there is a species barrier between sheep and human [sic].

Are they going to come clean about scrapie-to-reindeer transmission on common pastures or is that too sensitive vis-a-vis 'ethnic cleansing' of Lapps?

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