About 15% of CJD is thought to be a hereditary disease, a "bad
gene" which mutates ("autosomal dominant prion gene mutation")
causing the disease to spontaneously appear and turn the victim's
brain to mush.
But researchers in France were dealt a huge surprise in a recent
test when mice in a control group contracted CJD from a lamb infected
with scrapie. Previously, the brain wasting disease scrapie was
not thought to be transmissible in this way, and more experiments
are now underway, with Germany tracking it's human CJD cases to
try to determine if infected lamb may have been a common denominator
in some cases there.
We already know that studies show dementia and Alzheimer's disease
are both found at significantly lower rates in vegetarian populations.
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It is entirely possible the current epidemic of Alzheimer's Disease
may be like spongiform diseases which attack the brain - brought
on by what you eat. New clues regularly point in this direction,
and this theory is supported by recent news that cholesterol lowering
drugs (which attempt to combat cholesterol buildup inherent to diets
heavy in animal products) can also help and impact Alzheimer's.
Spongiform diseases have been found to be connected to the ingestion
of the meat of animals, so shouldn't we be examining U.S. cows to
see if they contain prions which could be a causative factor in
these serious diseases?
The government doesn't think so. According to Linda Detwiler who
heads the USDA's BSE surveillance unit, there is no line item for
BSE surveillance in the USDA budget, which means they must try to
carry out that activity at the expense of other programs for animal
health (tuberculosis, brucellosis, avian influenza, etc.).
The current administration has proposed funding research into mad
cow disease -- a first -- and President Bush has allocated five
million dollars for that purpose.
But five million dollars is not what a country spends which is
seriously examining this problem.
Just one lab -- the lab of Stanley Prusiner, who did the research
which led to the discovery of infective prions -- has an annual
budget of $7 million. The small country of Austria already spends
an estimated $18 million annually on its own mad cow surveillance
program. It tests 15,000 cows a month, compared to the 170 cows
tested in the U.S. each month. Austria has thus far been successful
in demonstrating to it's people that it's cows are free of infectious
prions. (The U.S. simply verbally assures its public that "there
is no BSE here," while the Austrian government insists their
cattle industry back it up with scientific proof. This stands in
stark contrast to the U.S.' s "all talk and no action"
Over the past three years Congress has provided $25 billion in special
assistance to compensate farmers for falling commodity prices and
crop losses caused by weather, including over a billion dollars
to bail out the hog and beef industries. To keep prices up, the
government makes huge meat purchases and donates it to the school
In addition, the USDA currently has a $17.9 billion discretionary
fund to handle issues it deems important as they arise, and the
White House has authorized a total of $32.1 million to protect against
foot and mouth disease.
Isn't it time the U.S. government takes potential health threats
to humans as seriously as it does the potential financial impact
to meat producers?
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