- A simple blood test which could enable doctors to diagnose
victims of the human form of mad cow disease at an early stage has been
developed by a team of scientists at King's College, London.
- The test, which identifies antibodies to bacteria, has
already been used accurately to identify BSE in cattle. Previously, the
only sure way of confirming whether or not cattle had BSE was by post mortem
examination of the brain. So far 74 people have died from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (vCJD), which has been linked to BSE. Another eight are believed
to be dying from the disease.
- Details of the new test will be described in America
next week by Alan Ebringer, Professor of Immunology at King's College,
who says it supports his theory that BSE was caused by Acinetobacter calcoaceticus,
a bacterium common in the environment.
- All of the diseased cattle tested had high levels of
antibodies to Acinetobacter calcoaceticus in their blood. This bacterium
is commonly found in animal faeces, sewage, contaminated water and the
soil. Prof Ebringer argues that the BSE epidemic started when large amounts
of this bacterium damaged the auto-immune system of cattle after they were
fed rations containing the processed remains of the intestines of sheep
and other animals.
- According to his theory, a general lowering of temperatures
in the animal rendering process in Britain allowed the bacteria to survive.
- Suspected cases of BSE in Britain have fallen to about
30 a week, compared with more than 1,000 cases a week at the peak of the
epidemic in 1993, the Ministry of Agriculture reported yesterday.
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