Humans May Be Secret
'Mad Cow' Carriers
LONDON (Reuters) - A British government adviser has raised the possibility that apparently healthy people and animals could be carriers of ``mad cow disease'' and its CJD human equivalent, the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
Research by a London team led by Professor John Collinge may lead to a re-think of the scale of the mad cow disease epidemic in cattle, and could mean that key experiments into how easily it can move from cattle to infect people and other animals have to be repeated, the newspaper said.
Mad cow disease, or BSE, is caused by prions, infectious proteins that also cause fatal brain diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and scrapie in sheep.
The Daily Telegraph quoted the team's published research as reporting on new evidence for the existence of a ``sub-clinical'' form of BSE -- a symptom-free infection -- that was unknown until now. Many species, such as sheep, pigs and poultry, were exposed to BSE via contaminated feed, meaning it was possible that they might also harbor the newly-discovered sub-clinical infection, Collinge, a member of the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, was quoted as saying.
He said measures to protect people against BSE were adequate but the implications should be thought through.
``We should re-think how we measure species barriers in the laboratory. We should not assume that just because one species appears resistant to a strain of prions that they do not silently carry the infection,'' Collinge said.
``This raises the possibility that apparently healthy cattle could harbour, but never show signs of, BSE.''
No immediate comment was available from government officials on the report.
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