SEP 22, 2017 5:46 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
DEC 15, 2019
Plants & Animals
DEC 15, 2019
Eagle vs. Octopus
The animal food chain is somewhat straightforward, with larger animals often hunting smaller animals in an attempt to ensure their own survival. Unfortunat...
DEC 22, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 22, 2019
How Astronomers Measure Distances to Stars
Extra stellar systems are so far away from our own that we couldn’t even hope of developing a tape measure long enough to determine how far away they...
DEC 31, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 31, 2019
Why Does This Star Dim Unpredictably?
KIC 8462852, also known as Tabby’s Star or the infamous ‘alien megastructure star,’ is peculiar because the star’s light seems to d...
JAN 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 16, 2020
Self-healable Sweat Sensor Fears No Wear and Tear
Sweat can provide a lot of information about a person's health. One of the current trends in wearable technology is to incorporate sweat sensing mechan...
FEB 09, 2020
Space & Astronomy
FEB 09, 2020
Here's Why NASA Needs Another Space Station Orbiting the Moon
NASA already has the International Space Station at its disposal, and with that in mind, many have come to question why the American space agency plans to...
FEB 16, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 16, 2020
Drone Footage Shows a Hungry Blue Whale Lunging At Krill
Blue whales are the largest living mammals on Earth, capable of growing as long as three full-length school busses. As you might come to expect, large anim...
Loading Comments...