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Worries over test for mad cow disease 11-3-08
A new test to screen blood for the incurable human form of mad cow disease
could be available within 18 months, but it has raised concerns.
The breakthrough blood test which will be able to diagnose variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob diseases (vCJD), is currently undergoing clinical trials but
experts are worried it will reduce the number of people prepared to donate blood
- research suggests 1 in every 4,000 people might harbour vCJD in their blood,
though 95% of them may never actually develop the full blown disease.
Variant CJD is a rare and fatal human neurodegenerative condition and is a
Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) or prion disease - because of the
characteristic spongy degeneration of the brain - it is strongly linked to
exposure, probably through food, to a TSE of cattle called Bovine Spongiform
In the early stages patients usually experience psychiatric symptoms such as
depression or, less often, a schizophrenia-like psychosis.
Unusual sensory symptoms, such as "stickiness" of the skin, have been
experienced by half of the cases early in the illness and neurological signs,
including unsteadiness, difficulty walking and involuntary movements, which
develop as the illness progresses; by the time of death, patients become
completely immobile and mute.
There are at present no available, completely reliable diagnostic tests for use
before the onset of clinical symptoms, but magnetic resonance scans, tonsillar
biopsy and cerebrospinal fluid tests are useful for detection.
The highest incidence of vCJD is in the UK, the country with the largest
potential exposure to BSE. A statutory ban on the feeding of protein derived
from ruminants (e.g. cattle, sheep and goats) to any ruminant exists.
The use in the food chain of bovine offals thought to pose a potential risk to
humans was also banned in the UK in 1989.
According to advisers to the British government, though the test is undoubtedly
a significant step towards eliminating the incurable disease and preventing it
from becoming endemic in society, it could result in a reduction in the number
of blood donors and there are also fears it could increase insurance premiums.
Experts suspect that donors will be reluctant to give blood if they risk being
told that they have the possibility of developing the disease which causes a
horrible and agonising death.
Dr. John Forsythe, chair of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood
Tissues and Organs (SABTO) and a transplant surgeon at the Royal Infirmary of
Edinburgh says the test does have significant downsides, despite concerns that
the disease could become widespread in the UK.
However only 4 of the 167 people who have died from vCJD contacted it through
infected blood - but the knowledge of having the disease would be terrifying
The problem is compounded because around 1% of the positive tests could be wrong
and with two million people donating blood every year in Britain that could
amount to 250 people being told they had the infection, and up to four of them
being falsely diagnosed.
Experts say from both a legal and ethical standpoint, those incubating the
disease would have to be told even though only a few could develop it fully.
In 2004 vCJD had an impact on blood supplies when the number of blood donors
dropped by 52,000 when those who had received blood transfusions in the previous
two decades was banned from donating blood.
Currently donated blood is screened for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C, but
because vCJD is neither curable or treatable, many donors may prefer to not know
they could develop the progressive and fatal degenerative brain disease.
Presently vCJD is tested for by performing post mortem biopsies on the brain.
It should be an eye-opener that less than 1% off beef is tested for mad cow
disease! If this new law causes more companies to test for their own financial
gain this is good for everyone. A much larger percent will get tested. We should
be testing 100% of cows like England or Australia; countries who take this alot
more seriously. I am very concerned that most cases of dementia or Alzheimer's
Disease is really miss-diagnosed Crutzfelt Jacob's disease form mad cow prions.
No beef in the USA is promised to be tested for mad cow. How can you avoid
eating Mad Cow Tainted Beef?
1. Don't Buy any Beef! Buy buffalo (bison), elk, ostrich, or other beef
tasting red meets.
2. If you must buy beef, buy if from
Blackwing. All their beef is guaranteed no downers, grass feed, humanely
treated, and routinely tested for Mad Cow. Not to mention the price is lower
than Whole Foods and most other chains and the quality is so much better you
won't ever want any other meat.
3. Never microwave any meats; but especially beef. Studies have shown that
microwaving creates prions in beef if that beef already contained Mad Cow.
Studies have also shown that microwaving can plasticize your food and your
4. Cook all beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees!
5. Make sure your meats have no other contact with other foods form the store
to the table. When buying meat, put the package in a plastic bag (bring some
from the produce isle if there isn't any in the meat section). Then wash hands
with sanitizing gel! Keep meat separate from all other food. If you use reusable
totes please wash them after every shopping trip and mark bags for their use. We
write with permanent marker in each bag: meat, produce, frozen, HBA, pet ect..
6. Use disinfecting spray anywhere blood or fluids spill at home or in the
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