Curb US Military Moves
To Curb Mad Cow Risk Staff Writer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Pentagon on Friday took steps to curb even a small risk of spreading the human form of brain- wasting mad cow disease through blood from troops and others connected with the U.S. military.
The Defense Department said it was tightening criteria for blood donations by troops, their families and civilian workers, including refusing to accept blood from anyone who traveled to or lived in the United Kingdom from 1980 through 1996 for a cumulative period of six months or more.
The department said it was following draft guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on restricting blood donors who may have been exposed in Europe to the agent that causes a variant of the brain-wasting ailment.
People with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human variant of mad cow disease, suffer a rapid decrease of mental function and movement abnormalities caused by damage to the tissues of the brain.
Death usually comes within six months of the onset of symptoms.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs J. Jarrett Clinton said the department has enough blood to meet military operational requirements as well as requirements of medical treatment facilities.
But he said the steps would disqualify an estimated 18 percent of nation's 1.4 million active-duty personnel from donating blood and that recruitment efforts would be increased among remaining troops to get blood.
Effective September 14, the department's new criteria will also restrict from blood donations:
- Defense Department-affiliated persons who have been stationed in Europe from 1980 through 1996 for a cumulative period of six months or more.
- Others who have traveled or resided in Europe from 1980 to the present for a cumulative period of five years. That includes department personnel who lived or visited there after January 1, 1997.
- Anyone who has received a transfusion in the United Kingdom since 1980.
- Anyone who has received bovine insulin produced in Britain since 1980.
The announcement came a day after scientists studying genetically altered mice said in Washington that it may be possible to create a vaccine to fight fatal ailments such as mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Researchers led by Adriano Aguzzi and Frank Heppner of the University of Zurich in Switzerland said that they had modified mice genetically so that their immune system released antibodies that protect against abnormal versions of proteins called prions.
Prions are believed to trigger a number of degenerative brain diseases.
Their findings, published in the journal Science, could pave the way for the development of a vaccine against the diseases, the researchers said at a news conference.


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