SEP 22, 2017 05:46 AM PDT

How Likely are You to Get Mad Cow Disease Today?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Known formally as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), prion diseases made headlines in the mid 1980s through the 1990s as the cause of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Prions are "proteinaceous infectious particles," which are small proteins that are nearly impossible to destroy, but cause deadly brain-wasting diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), mad-cow disease, and kuru.

The epidemic hit the United Kingdom the hardest, infecting over 180,000 cattle. Subsequently, 4.4 million cattle were sacrificed in the attempt to eradicate the disease from the food chain to humans. The event led to drastic changes to how cattle can be fed and how cattle parts should be properly handled, which played a crucial part in controlling the disease. Nevertheless, the CDC remains vigilant about BSE surveillance. In 2017, one cow in Alabama tested positive for BSE, making it the fifth infected cow found in the US since 2003. Given the stringent guidelines on cattle raising, the risk that a steak is tainted with prion seems to be very slim.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 14, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 14, 2019
Will Banana Crops Survive a Changing Climate?
Climate change impacts, most notably rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, are impacting agricultural production around the world. It&rs...
NOV 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 14, 2019
What NASA's TESS Mission Has Accomplished Thus Far
Astronomers are particularly interested in finding an exoplanet like the Earth, and with the help of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, al...
NOV 14, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 14, 2019
How Desert Ant Queens Establish a Colony
When a founding desert ant queen is ready to establish her own colony, the harsh environment compels her to do something that no other queen would ever dar...
NOV 14, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 14, 2019
What You Need to Know About NASA's Upcoming WFIRST Space Telescope
There are several space telescopes observing the cosmos at the very time of this writing, and there are plans to launch even more of them in the near futur...
NOV 14, 2019
Health & Medicine
NOV 14, 2019
CDC Links Vitamin E Acetate to Vaping Illness
The actual cost of e-cigarette usage continues to reveal itself as reports of lung injury cases and deaths continue to rise. Scientists are diligently work...
NOV 14, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 14, 2019
Triggerfish Are Lobsters' Worst Enemies
Lobsters, just like many other animals, follow migration patterns. They are often observed traveling in large packs, marching in straight lines across the...
Loading Comments...