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BSE – A Leap Into The Unknown

  • Louise Cummings
Chapter

Abstract

In 1986, the UK’s scientific community was confronted with the emergence of a new and invariably fatal brain disease in cattle. Diagnosed as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), this disease joined a group of pre-existing pathologies called the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). TSEs were known to affect a wide range of mammalian vertebrates, including humans. Yet, their study prior to 1986 had occupied something of a twilight zone between veterinary science and medicine. The only apparent implications of TSEs for human health were cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and the occurrence in the 1950s of a TSE called kuru in the remote Fore tribe of New Guinea. The emergence of BSE in the UK’s national herd thus served to refocus scientific attention on this devastating group of diseases. Although no TSE had previously been identified in cattle, spongiform encephalopathies were nonetheless familiar to farmers and veterinarians through the long-standing presence of scrapie in sheep populations in the UK and elsewhere. Scrapie was also one of the most extensively investigated TSEs with experimental studies of the disease initiated in earnest some decades earlier. Here, it seemed, was a template for how BSE would behave in cattle.

Keywords

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Chronic Wasting Disease Fatal Familial Insomnia Mule Deer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Arts and HumanitiesNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK

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