Mad Cow Blood Test
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A cowI was craving a hamburger until I realized we were going to be discussing mad cow disease. But frankly, we should be more concerned about blood transfusions that are contaminated with the misfolded proteins which cause the fatal brain disorder.

So far two hundred people in Europe have died from variant Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease or vCJD which people developed after eating contaminated beef. It’s killed four people in the US and since carriers can be asymptomatic for up to fifty years, they can spread it by donating blood.

So scientists have spent a decade developing a blood screen to protect our blood supply and now we may have not one but two tests! Mad cow disease or BSE which stands for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that happens when proteins called prions on the surface of neurons misfold into a form called PrPSC.

The new tests screen for these misfolded proteins by amplifying the conversion of normal proteins into these abnormal ones. That means they quickened the pace at which these proteins misfold in order to detect their presence. The test successfully identified fourteen people with vCJD out of a sample that included one hundred thirty seven healthy controls.

The second screen also used the amplification technique but first isolated prions by using magnetic nanobeads. This method was able to pick out the eighteen people with vCJD among two hundred fifty samples from Britain and France, two of the countries most affected by Mad Cow Disease.

They’re now planning to expand the study to see if it continues to be accurate. With as many as one in two thousand people in the UK suspected to be carriers, a screen is vital to their public health.

For more information…

Mad cow disease remains a threat. New blood tests could detect it
The “mad cow disease” epidemic that killed more than 200 people in Europe peaked more than a decade ago, but the threat it poses is still real...

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)
BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unusual transmissible agent called a prion...

New test spots human form of mad cow disease with 100 percent accuracy
Blood screening technology may be able to diagnose infections before symptoms emerge...