BSE/Mad Cow Disease
Also 'Spread
Through Cowpatties'
Land Of Hope And Gunrunning
By Peter Woolrich
From Punch Magazine - Issue 105, May 3-16, 2000
Selected articles from "Punch" at
BSE experts believe cattle continued to catch the disease through contaminated soil long after the date that the government believed was possible.
The research has raised fears that France and Germany may extend their bans on the import of British beef unless further action is taken to stop the spread of the disease.
The government has insisted that the last cattle were infected in August 1996, either through contaminated feed or, in a small number of cases, from mother to calf.
'Third way' of infection
But Dr Alan Dickenson, the founding director of the Neuropathogenisis Unit in Edinburgh which researches BSE, warned that animals born after August 1996 may have caught the disease a "third way", through infected soil.
He told BBC Radio Four's Farming Today programme that his research showed cow pats excreted on to grazing land by cattle at the height of the epidemic posed a "real risk" of infection.
If cattle born after August 1996 caught BSE through infected soil, the epidemic would last longer than the government predicted.
However, the disease's five-year incubation period means it will not be possible to tell whether Dr Dickenson is right until 2001.
Microbiologist Dr Stephen Dealler told the programme he feared the findings could lead to France and Germany extending their bans on the import of British beef.
He added that the future spread of BSE could be "drastically reduced" if cattle and sheep were injected with the drug pentosan polysulphate.
The compound, used in America to treat cystitis, has been shown to drastically reduce BSE infectivity in laboratory mice, Dr Dealler said.


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