Mad Cow Disease
Alternate Names : Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, New Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, New Variant CJD
Mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform
encephalopathy, is a disease found in cattle that causes progressive
brain damage in the cattle. It may also affect goats and sheep. New
variant CJD, called nvCJD, is a disease that causes the same type of progressive
brain damage in humans. NvCJD may actually be the human form of mad
What is going on in the body?
Both mad cow disease and nvCJD are believed to be caused
by prions. Prions are a modified form of a protein found on normal cell
surfaces. Both diseases cause a build up of prions in the brain. The increase
in prions causes brain injury and degeneration The same type of prion may
cause both mad cow disease and nvCJD.
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
There is a strong link between mad cow disease and the
nvCJD. Most experts believe that this new variant CJD is the human
form of mad cow disease. It is believed that the abnormal prion is
spread from infected cattle to humans when the person eats meat or
beef products. Milk and dairy products from infected cattle don't appear
to carry the same risk.
At present, infected cattle are found mostly in Europe,
especially in Great Britain. Even there, the risk of getting nvCJD from
infected beef is only about 1 case in 10 billion servings of beef. nvCJD
has been seen most often in younger people.