- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.
scientists are inching closer to developing a test to diagnose mad cow
and other diseases that can be deadly for animals and potentially infect
humans, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Thursday.
- The scientists have developed a method to detect the
presence of abnormal proteins, called prions, in the blood of animals and
humans, the department said.
- Prions are naturally occurring brain proteins that experts
say mutate into dangerous forms, resulting in a group of diseases called
transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.
- The most well-known TSE is mad cow disease, scientifically
known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Mad cow caused widespread anxiety
in the United Kingdom and around the world after scientists discovered
a link between the disease and the human brain-wasting disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob
- Some 40 people have died from nvCJD so far, but scientists
say it is still too early to predict the final toll. U.K. producers have
killed millions of cattle since a worldwide export ban was imposed in March
1996 after the discovery.
- There are no documented cases of mad cow in the United
- But another TSE disease, scrapie, has been discovered
in as many as 1,000 U.S. sheep and goat flocks. Scrapie is a degenerative
and eventually fatal disease that targets the central nervous systems of
- There is no cure for the disease, and producers who discover
a sheep or goat with scrapie often must destroy many animals in the flock
to stop the spread of the disease, since there is no way to test live animals