June 9 2006 ~ A disease being termed "atypical BSE" is being found in older cattle in both USA and Europe
At an international conference on what are described as "prion diseases" in domestic livestock, French and Italian scientists have described how a TSE has been found in a small number of cattle ranging from 5 to 15 years old. One French researcher has revealed that the BSE cases in Texas last year 2005 and Alabama last spring 2006 were identical to "atypical" cases of BSE found in France. We read on ProMed's quoting of Farmers Weekly that "Marion Simmons of the Veterinary Laboratory Agency at Weybridge urged caution, saying there are not yet sufficient supporting data to suggest that the disease is a new strain of BSE."
A moderator comments, "It has long been debated whether this atypical form is sporadic or whether the sporadic appearance was an atypical form. There does not seem to be a good explanation, which simply highlights the need for more research and understanding of this disease. "
We have tried for some years to highlight the uncertainties. Although scientific reputations, massive regulation and huge amounts of money depend on certainties - those challenging the received wisdom seem to be considered contemptible by the establishment - there are indeed many more questions than answers about so-called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies. See also previous ProMed posting
March 10 2006 ~ "Can the Minister please explain why, in a situation such as that surrounding scrapie, BSE, CJD or foot and mouth disease, the Government seem to turn to scientists who are not regarded by their peers as experts in the area while ignoring those who are?"
The Countess of Mar has once again shown her deep concern about the "scientific" advice being given to the government. In Tuesday's debate she again warns about both the unscientific nature and the over-prescription of the government's TSE regulations. Genuine experts such as Alan Dickinson warned 20 years ago that measures to reduce scrapie should avoid genetical extremes. The advice was ignored and the so-called "atypical scrapie" cases are now found in the very genotypes actually being selected by the National Scrapie Plan as being "resistant". Of even graver significance is the fact that the Regulations of 2002 were, in the first place, "based on the widespread assumption that a rogue isoform of a protein designated PrPcalled prion protein by somecauses TSEs. That hypothesis is unsupported by rigorous analysis and substantial data contradict it."
The transcript of the debate makes for deeply disturbing reading. The Countess of Mar politely and painstakingly dissects the illogical, inconsistent and weirdly worded regulations, concluding moreover that
"I want the Minister to know that I am extremely concerned that all regulation in this field is based on a hypothesisnot even a theorythat none of the "establishment" scientific community can prove, despite millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being thrown at the subject.... . " Read in full
March 5/6 2006 ~ "One certain thing is that we have been eating scrapied sheep for 200 years and nobody has come to any harm. Professor Hugh Pennington
We read in the Sunday Herald that "vCJD expert Dr Stephen Dealler" are once again raising the spectre of scrapie in sheep somehow masking BSE. An atypical form of scrapie has been found in 108 cases but there is no evidence that it is any more harmful to humans than scrapie itself. " The worry is, of course, that atypical scrapie will be infectious to humans, but we dont know, Dr Dealler is reported as saying, adding "..should we, in this wait-and-see period, be taking more aggressive action?"
While research grants are the life blood of science and "wait-and-see" periods may be rather lean, it seems nevertheless that the so-called "timebomb" disease of vCJD hardly merits all this scaremongering. The ever-dwindling number of deaths due to definite or probable vCJD in the UK during the 12 months of 2005 remains 5. The peak number of deaths was 28 in the year 2000, followed by 20 in 2001, 17 in 2002, 18 in 2003, 9 in 2004, 5 in 2005, and one so far in 2006. (Figures from ProMed.) From the latest SEAC Sheep Subgroup Position Statement: " (pdf) Human Health Risk. There is no evidence of a risk to human health, but a theoretical risk cannot be excluded. Comparative transmission studies with humanised mice and other species (including primates) are urgently needed to inform on the potential risk to human health."
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