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Butchers complain about new E. coli rules
Two suspected Creuzfeldt-Jacob cases in Crete
JCV in patients with AIDS: nothing to do with CJD
WHO, CJD, and blood donors
Blood Banks following issue
More Canadians dying from Alzheimer's than from AIDS
CWD: lab progress is slow
Secret US military BSE experiments?
Professor fears E. coli report may be shelved
Research finds root of E. coli's resistance

Butchers say new E. coli rules will close shops


MANY of the 12,000 small butchers may close because of new regulations expected today in the report on the E. coli epidemic, it was claimed yesterday.

The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, which represents 3,000 butchers, said new safeguards could prove too expensive for a large number of small businesses. The report is also expected to be critical of government delays in implementing food safety guidelines, and to recommend tougher hygiene standards for abattoirs and farmers.

Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary, will unveil the report this afternoon. It will broadly retain the interim recommendations issued in January by the committee of inquiry chaired by Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist at Aberdeen University.

An important recommendation was the separation of raw and cooked products, with different staff, counters, refrigerators and cutting equipment. A new licensing system for shops was also suggested. The final report is expected to soften the recommendation on separate staff, saying this should be achieved "wherever possible" rather than being mandatory.

Cross-contamination between fresh and cooked meat is thought to have been the main cause of the most serious of the E. coli outbreaks, which claimed 18 lives and affected more than 400 people in Lanarkshire. Three other people have been killed by E. coli recently.

John Fuller, director of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, said: "Small butcher's shops do not have the financial resources to fund extra staff and do not have the space to accommodate separate counters and refrigerators for fresh and cooked meat."

Gavin Strang, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, said the E. coli outbreaks and BSE presented an "unanswerable case" for an independent Food Safety Agency. Dr Strang accused the Government of failing to enforce food safety regulations and of "running down" food safety research.

Professor Pennington is expected to emphasise the need for animals to be clean before slaughter. E. coli is found in the stomach and intestines of livestock and can be present in faeces and urine. The interim report made only passing reference to the possible role of poor hygiene in abattoirs. But at that time Professor Pennington was unaware of a damning report on abattoir conditions compiled in 1995 by the Meat Hygiene Service. The report, never published in full, was disclosed only last month.

Ann Foster, director of the Scottish Consumer Council and a member of Professor Pennington's committee, said: "Attempting to get consistently high standards in abattoirs, where the initial contamination takes place, will be a central issue of our report." Supermarkets said yesterday that they would be willing to review hygiene procedures for raw and cooked meat, although they considered their existing safeguards sufficient to eliminate risk of cross-contamination.

A Sainsbury's spokesman said: "All our staff already use separate utensils and weighing equipment and wash their hands between operations. There are some stores where bacon and sausages are sold from the delicatessen counter alongside cooked meats, and we would always be willing to review procedures in the light of expert opinion."

Tesco said fresh and cooked meat counters were partitioned rather than separate and refrigerators were compartmentalised. "We believe that our existing procedures are enough to ensure that there is no risk of contamination," a spokesman said. "If the final Pennington report recommends total physical separation of staff and equipment, we would have to comply, but it would add to costs."

Two suspected Creuzfeldt-Jacob cases in Crete

Athens, 29/03/97 (ANA) Two people are in a serious condition in an Iraklion hospital with what is thought to be Creuzfeldt-Jacob syndrome, which has been linked to bovine spongiform encephaly (BSE) or mad cow disease, according to unconfirmed hospital sources.

The two, both in their fifties, were suspected of having the disease about six weeks ago and a biopsy was performed indicating the syndrome. The tests have been sent to Athens for confirmation. Infected meat had been found in tests carried out around Crete about a year ago.

Worries on Blood donors

Financial Times (03/27/97) ... article by Stephen Dealler

The World Health Organization will recommend barring "groups of higher risk of having Creutfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) from donating blood." The decision is taken in the light of scientific evidence suggesting a link between BSE and nvCJD. While experts determined they have no proof that CJD can be transmitted via blood transfusions, they said there is a potential risk.

Three groups have been identified as potential risk groups:

  • people treated with contaminated growth hormone early in the 1980s;
  • people who have had brain or other surgery in which duramater was used ;
  • families of CJD sufferers [genetic ]

    Listserve Commentary:

    Hans G. Andersson ... 31 Mar 1997

    WHO's Press Release (WHO/27) of March 27 is, IMO, irresponsible. Please, notice that the World Health Organization does *not* recognize nvCJD as a potential risk for the blood supply.

    The new variant CJD is an emerging infectious disease, an infectious strain of spongiform encephalopathy. It's now a disease incubating in humans,in countries where BSE contaminated beef products have been consumed, and with a remarkably long incubation period.

    It's a potential time-bomb, a serious health problem and the nvCJD epidemic has actually already started, with future numbers totally unknown. WHO's experts are suggesting that people who may develop iatrogenic CJD and families with cases of inherited CJD should be excluded in the donor selection.

    I have suggested that all blood products from the UK should be recognized by the international community as potentially risky. At least until a satisfying test can be used to identify the infectious agent of nvCJD in blood donors.

    We can play it safe. Or, we can conclude that "blood transfusions continues to be safe" (WHO/27), while they are potentially risky.

    * perspective is a potentially huge BSE exposure to humans in the UK, mostly during the 80's
    * nvCJD may have a general incubation period of several decades
    * the blood supply in the UK and elsewhere are not screened for CJD

    A all blood products from the UK should be recognized by the international community as potentially risky. At least until a satisfying test can be used to identify the infectious agent in blood products.

    There is currently "no proof that CJD can be transmitted via blood transfusions", but there is a "potential risk". Bovine blood, as well as beef products including blood, should be recognized as potentially risky. Especially bovine blood and beef products from countries with high BSE numbers.
    It's unclear if WHO recommended excluding members of families of "inherited" CJD victims, not members of all families of CJD sufferers. If, in fact, they do limit it to families of "inherited" CJD victims, how do they propose identifying those families with the inherited CJD vs. sporadic or iatrophic? In the US there seems to be no tracking of CJD at all, much less identifying the genetic strains of CJD. Second, if CJD is "inherited," how would the blood from family members be infectious? Is WHO making a backhanded statement that "inherited" CJD is infectious?

    Blood Banks following issue

     Eileen Church
         Director of Communications
         American Association of Blood Banks
    1 Apr 1997. The information coming out of WHO is consistent with blood screening procedures in the United States. However, the news reports appear misleading, because they confuse cause and effect and erroneously report that Paul Brown's study proves that blood transfusions can transmit CJD.

    The study by Paul Brown of the US National Institutes of Health (reported on 3/25 by Rachel and alluded to by me in a November 1996 posting) did not find that blood transfusions transmit CJD. In this study (still unpublished), blood from CJD infected hamsters was manufactured into blood components and products and injected intracerebrally into other hamsters. Paul Brown reported briefly at a November conference on blood safety that some of the hamsters inoculated with cryoprecipitate appeared to be "in trouble". At that time, no post-mortem examination information was reported, and I am not sure that any had died. I have not seen his final study report.

    I talked to Paul Brown in November immediately after his presentation and asked him how his study applied to blood transfusions, as blood transfusions are not inoculated intracerebrally. He said that it does not prove that blood transfusions transmit CJD, but that the potential is there. Other studies have shown the same thing with intracranially inoculated blood. What appears to be missing is evidence that a transfusion of blood in the normal manner (via veins/arteries) can transmit CJD. I don't know whether it is related to the receptors the infectious particles are looking for or if there is a physical barrier.

    We have ongoing studies in the US (American Red Cross and Centers for Disease Control) to follow patients who received blood transfusions from donors who later developed CJD. None of these patients have developed CJD. It is the same in hemophiliacs, although studies are now ongoing in HIV infected hemophiliacs with dementia to determine whether they have HIV-related dementia or something else.

    Regarding CJD in families; , the familial deferral is for inherited CJD. The way we get at this is to ask the donor directly to find out if there was more than one person in the family diagnosed with CJD and if the persons were blood relatives. We ask if they know how the family member acquired CJD (through growth hormone, for example). We defer donors with familial risk, but allow them to donate if they get genetic testing and are found to be not at risk for familial CJD. We also quarantine units of blood still available from donors who later develop CJD. These are US Food and Drug Administration requirements and are, again, precautionary.

    How would a familially-at-risk person's blood be infectious? This is the question. It would really help if we knew more about the CJD agent. Finally, the variant strain. We do not have to deal with this in the US; however, it probably has been addressed by the British Blood Transfusion Society.

    More Canadians dying from Alzheimer's than from AIDS

    Agence France-Presse Mar 25, 1997

    OTTAWA : Alzheimer's disease is claiming more Canadian lives than AIDS, according to a report published Tuesday by Statistics Canada. And, according to the government agency, women are about twice as likely to die from Alzheimer's than men, while men are 10 times as likely to fall victim to AIDS. In 1994, the report says, Alzheimer's claimed the lives of 1,685 women and 859 men in Canada, while the Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome was responsible for the deaths of 139 women and 1,489 men.

    Progress with investigating the transmission potential of CWD

    . Communication, Dr. Janice Miller, ARS, USDA Ames Iowa

    So far, nothing has been initiated. The holdup on our end has been getting a barn ready to house the inoculated [from deer and elk with chronic wasting disease] cattle and sheep. We are an AALAC certified laboratory and in one of our inspections we were criticized for holding animals long-term on concrete floors. It was decided we would have a rubberized coating applied to the barn floor, similar to the kind of floor we have in our large animal surgery suite. However, apparently there aren't a lot of companies that do that kind of work and it has been a paperwork nightmare to get the contract approved. We think the event will now occur, hopefully in the near future. The second part of our problem has been getting the necessary agreements between ourselves and the people who will supply the brain material. We, of course, do not have access to it. A meeting is scheduled for later this month and hopefully all of the issues for a collaborative study can be resolved.

    Are there selected slaughter plants that kill lots of "downer cows." My sources tell me yes, but they are not slaughtering for human consumption, only for pet food. Of course the regular plants still get some cattle in the "downer" category and the largest number would be found at plants that slaughter significant numbers of dairy cows. Plants that mostly kill young steers wouldn't be expected to have many cattle with that kind of problem. APHIS personnel have said most of the cases they get come from the plants slaughtering for human consumption, but if you want more details talk to them or to Dr. McCaskey in FSIS,fax number 706-546-3383.

    Reagding formalin interaction with proteins [that interfer with TSE diagnosis], I have a couple of papers that say "According to chemical data, formaldehyde forms highly reactive methylols with uncharged amino groups. Such methylol groups yield methylene bridges with suitably spaced amides, arginine and aromatic amino acid sidechains."....."Methylene crosslinks resist treatment with high concentrations of urea, and can be broken only by drastic hydrolysis."

    Professor fears E. coli report may be shelved

    March 31 1997 BY ANDREW PIERCE

    THE author of a report into the E. coli outbreak warned the Government yesterday not to suppress his findings during the election campaign. The timing of the completed investigation into the bout of food poisoning, which claimed the lives of 20 people in Scotland, has dismayed Conservative Central Office.

    A team of experts led by Hugh Pennington is expected to criticise the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for delaying hygiene improvements because of the costs. Professor Pennington, of Aberdeen University, said that he hoped politicians would consider the report too important to have its publication delayed.

    "Clearly the election is a spoiler in the sense that it gets in the way of the normal events in terms of the Government responding to things in a reasonable timescale," he said on BBC Radio 5 Live. "But still, I would hope the issues here are so important that there can be a rapid response to it and then the report can appear in the public domain."

    His report will thrust Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, back into the media spotlight. It is the last place that Tory party leaders had in mind for Mr Hogg during the election campaign.

    Little has been seen of Mr Hogg since his Commons statement at the beginning of the month, in which he denied that he had suppressed a critical report on the standard of safety in abattoirs. The £1 million report, which was carried out by an agency of the ministry, was handed to Mr Hogg's officials in the same month that the BSE crisis became public. Mr Hogg said that no ministers saw the report.

    The interim report into E. coli published by Professor Pennington's team a few months ago condemned the ministry for its "softly, softly" approach to implementing food safety improvements. Further criticisms are likely. But it will be up to Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, to decide when the final version should be made public.

    The report has concluded that the only way hygiene can be improved is by food producers spending more. It is expected to criticise the ministry for being closer to the producer than the consumer. The Scottish Office said yesterday that it was the Government's intention to publish the report before the election, "as soon as possible after it has been received".

    Research finds root of E. coli's resistance

    BY NIGEL HAWKES April 1 1997 London Times

    SCIENTISTS have discovered a powerful new mechanism by which bacteria can resist antibiotic drugs. The finding suggests that it may become increasingly difficult to treat bacterial infections.

    Eitan Bibi and Rotem Edgar, of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovoth, Israel, discovered the new mechanism while studying drug resistance in E. coli, the common gut bacterium. The 0157 form killed 20 people in Scotland recently. The scientists report in Journal of Bacteriology that they found in the bacterium a molecule, which they called MdfA, capable of acting as a pump to eject toxic compounds and other unwanted materials from the cell. These unwanted materials might include potentially lifesaving drugs.

    The fact that virtually all organisms have such systems in their cells is known, but the Israeli researchers found that MdfA is remarkably effective in expelling many different types of drugs. "This highlights the dormant potential of some bacteria to survive even complex antibiotic treatments, and presents a challenge for future therapies," Dr Bibi said.

    MdfA, an Escherichia coli Multidrug Resistance Protein with an Extraordinarily Broad Spectrum of Drug Recognition

    Journal of Bacteriology, Apr. 1997, Vol. 179, No. 7 p. 2274-2280
    Rotem Edgar and Eitan Bibi 

    Multidrug resistance (MDR) translocators recently identified in bacteria constitute an excellent model system for studying the MDR phenomenon and its clinical relevance. Here we describe the identification and characterization of an unusual MDR gene (mdfA) from Escherichia coli. mdfA encodes a putative membrane protein (MdfA) of 410 amino acid residues which belongs to the major facilitator superfamily of transport proteins. Cells expressing MdfA from a multicopy plasmid are substantially more resistant to a diverse group of cationic or zwitterionic lipophilic compounds such as ethidium bromide, tetraphenylphosphonium, rhodamine, daunomycin, benzalkonium, rifampin, tetracycline, and puromycin. Surprisingly, however, MdfA also confers resistance to chemically unrelated, clinically important antibiotics such as chloramphenicol, erythromycin, and certain aminoglycosides and fluoroquinolones. Transport experiments with an E. coli strain lacking F1-F0 proton ATPase activity indicate that MdfA is a multidrug transporter that is driven by the proton electrochemical gradient.

    Secret US military BSE experiments?

    31 Mar 1997 From: Michael Ravnitzky

    D you want a list of rare, previously unavailable military reports on the subject of bovine spongiform encephalopathy? You can get a list of [largely unpublished] technical reports on BSE and related topics. Many of these reports have been locked away for various bureaucratic reasons and have not been put into the public domain, until now.

    Here's how you can obtain a LIST of several dozen military technical reports on BSE and related subjects from the Defense Technical Information Center, a government agency. The form letter to use for your request:

    To:    Defense Technical Information Center
           Attn:  DTIC-RSM [Kelly D. Akers, FOIA Manager]
           8725 John J. Kingman Road, Suite 0944
           Fort Belvoir, VA  22060-6128  USA
    Phone:  703-767-9194
    Dear Ms. Akers:
    I request the following records under the provisions of the Freedom of
    Information Act: A computer generated technical report bibliography of reports on the
    subject[s]/keyword[s] of: BSE  or  Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy  or  Prions (Pathogens)
    Please send me this bibliography for ALL years in your computerized
    This is a request for DTIC records, please don't forward my request to
    NTIS.  Please include both classified and unclassified records in your
    search.  If any of the records are classified, please review them for
    release, or the release of nonsensitive portions.
    I am an individual, noncommercial requester and this request is not
    being made for commercial purposes. I also agree to pay up to $25 for 
     reasonable fees associated with this
    Commentary by Webmaster:
    This is a complex issue for the US military on many fronts. Their concerns include:

    1. US military personnel and dependents stationed in Britain from 1980-1996 are likely to have consumed BSE-tainted beef to the same extent or more as the English, though of course tours of duty are shorter than permanent residence. The same could be said of NATO-associated personnel, possibly European theatre, possibly Navy, possibly Gulf War troops, and conceivably MRE, one hopes all to a much much lesser degree. To my best knowledge, commissary beef was not shifted over to IBP-US grown sourcing until spring of 1996.

    2. Readiness of US forces could be impacted. This is a euphemism for concern about the safety of the blood supply and transplant material in the event of extensive emergency need. The question arises, do they have real-time capability of tracking exposed individuals and sequestering donated blood products.

    3. Magnitude, Notification, Tracking, Follow-up, Future Costs. These are self-explanatory. Like everyone else, they are waiting to see how the problem plays out. There are many other hazards and health risks associated with being in the military and I doubt if they will take any steps out of line with demonstrated need. They are not going to be taking their marching orders from Chicken Little. I did get on their case about saving all the data about who, when, and how much while it is still around, in case it is needed later, but this was already underway.

    4. Morale and Perception. They do not want another Gulf War Syndrome. Whatever the factual merits of this, public perceptions of cover-up and deception have hurt relations not just with veteran groups but across the board. They got in so deep on this one that it's hard to get back on a forthright bearing. It would not look good on top of this if they were found to be not disclosing nvCJD fatalities in American soldiers. My feeling overall is yes, with 20-20 hindsight they could have switched to US beef the day the BSE epidemic started but that wasn't likely what with our supposed allies still feeding it to their own people on such a grand scale.

    5. The law student who provided the listserve with the FOIA form letter to the US military has written me now saying that he hasn't personally received a bibliography on BSE and prions and related subjects from DTIC. What he did provide me was a list of titles the military received from using Medline, rather than secret skunk works CJD studies. My guess is that the military has no research program whatsoever on TSEs; they would probably just fund a conventional academic researcher. Someone is no doubt detailed to follow the issue. There could be worst case scenarios developed that could be pretty scary out of context.

    JCV in patients with AIDS: nothing to do with CJD

    This abstract is sometimes cited to imply that AIDS neuropathy is CJD:

    "JC virus detection in the cerebrospinal fluid of AIDS patients with progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy and monitoring of the antiviral treatment by a PCR method"

    J.Med.Microbiol.,46 (3):256-259 (1997Mar)
    Matsiota-Bernard,P... Boyatzakis,E., Nauciel,C.
    Twenty-four cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from 19 AIDS patients with neurological signs were analysed by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the presence of JC virus (JCV). Eleven of the 19 patients tested presented with progressive multifocal leucoencephalopathy (PML). Two specific JCV target sequences were used for the PCR analysis: a sequence specific for the T antigen genes from both BK virus (BKV) and JCV (PCR1) and a sequence specific for the large T antigen gene from JCV (PCR2). The JCV genome was detected in 10 of 11 patients with PML by the PCR1 method and in all 11 patients by the PCR2 method ...

    7 Apr 1997 comments of neuropathologist Prof. Dr. Herbert Budka

    JC virus, a conventional polyomavirus named after the initials of the individual from whom it was first isolated, causes PML, a disease mostly seen in paraneoplasia and AIDS; PML is characterised by lytic JC virus infection of oligodendroglia. It is _not_ the CJD agent.

    mad cow home or moly bio area or best links