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
SEP 12, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
SEP 12, 2018
Supercapacitors to Outcompete Lithium-Ion Batteries
In many scientific breakthroughs, researchers often associate one idea with another in the most unexpected way. Inspired by the same polymer found in conta...
SEP 16, 2018
Videos
SEP 16, 2018
Diseases Lurking in Our Backyards
Despite being invisible, microbes surround us all the time. They cover our phones, our hands, and infiltrate our backyards. Although a lot of these microbe...
SEP 20, 2018
Videos
SEP 20, 2018
Is height all genetics?
For those of us who are more, ahem, vertically challenged, shall we say, it's likely that you've wondered what is responsible for your height (or l...
SEP 22, 2018
Videos
SEP 22, 2018
Did a Vampire Facial Expose Patients to Bloodborne Disease?
It seems there is no shortage of unusual beauty rituals; vampire facials may fall into that category....
OCT 02, 2018
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 02, 2018
Iridium Anomaly and The Extinction of Dinosaurs
Iridium is a hard, dense, silver-looking transition metal often found in high abundance in meteorites. When the higher-than-usual amount of iridium (around...
OCT 13, 2018
Videos
OCT 13, 2018
Why you shouldn't give a baby water
Did you know that babies shouldn't drink water before they are at least six months old? That's because, while human adults are composed of 55-60% w...
Loading Comments...