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London Times: US herds 'carrying mad cow disease'
EU To Exempt Some Pharmaceuticals From Meat Rule
US says threat of mad cow trade war averted
CDC study released on dura mater CJD, blood products
Chronic wasting disease update
Belgium changes system after madcow feed mistake
Polish case of nvCJD?
BSE report sees progress on EU science advice
Scientist fears CJD in blood reserves

London Times: US herds 'carrying mad cow disease'

Sat, 14 Nov 1997  FROM TUNKU VARADARAJAN IN NEW YORK
Below is the what the London Times put online. The headline and reporter's first sentence are not going to sit well with US industry as the timing is a bit awkward with respect to the looming EU pharmaceutical exemption. Indeed the article may represent a deliberate effort to influence this process

John Stauber and Sheldon, authors of 'Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here, ' do write about the work of Dr. Richard Marsh but fairly cautiously and with careful qualifications and do not come to such a strongly worded conclusion; however, many people have similarly opined that the Marsh studies are suggestive or worse and no one disputes that scrapie and chronic wasting disease TSE's are still present in the US. --webmaster

THOUSANDS of American cattle carry a deadly strain of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow" disease, according to a new book.

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, co-authors of Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here , said there has been evidence since 1985 of a strain of BSE in US cattle, but American regulators have played down the dangers and erred on the side of the meat industry.

The book contends that although the strain of BSE linked to the fatal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in people is specific to Europe, other fatal strains are present in North America.

These strains of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) were first detected in studies in the 1980s at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, by Dr Richard Marsh, a virologist who died earlier this year of causes unrelated to the subject of his research.

Dr Marsh, who grew up on his father's mink farm in Oregon, found a strain of TSE in farmed mink which had been given feed containing meat from Downer dairy cows. He then injected the virus found in the mink into Holstein bull calves, discovering that the calves caught the disease rapidly and died. He was not certain how the cows fed to the mink got the disease in the first place, but concluded that rendered ruminants in feed were the likeliest source.

Dr Marsh's findings and his call for a ban on using material from ruminants in cattle feed were dismissed by the federal Food and Drug Administration. While there have been no reported cases of CJD in America, the authors argue that this does not mean that there is no risk.

CDC study released on dura mater CJD

FDA  complete transcripts of  
October 6th (Dura Mater) and October 7th (Plasma products as excipients) meetings
of the FDA's TSE Advisory Committee meeting.   250 pages. 
"Patients who received contaminated grafts during surgery have developed fatal Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease as long as 16 years later, health officials said Thursday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 61 cases of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD) have been linked worldwide to dura mater grafts manufactured by a German company since 1979. One of 43 graft-related CJD cases in Japan involved a patient who developed the rapidly progressive fatal illness 16 years and one month after receiving a dura mater graft, the agency said. The average among the 43 patients was approximately seven years.

"The maximum latency period from the time of exposure to the time patients had onset of CJD was 16 years," CDC epidemiologist Dr. Ermias Belay said.

The German manufacturer, B. Braun Melsungen AG, began screening donors for the brain-destroying illness in 1987 and stopped mixing dura obtained from different cadavers in its product, called lyodura, Belay said. The product substitutes for the tough fibrous membrane covering the brain or spinal cord, but it has not been licensed for marketing or distribution in the United States."

Chronic Wasting Disease update

Sat, 15 Nov 1997 Results of a Nexis search through October 1997

Results of Colorado Division of Wildlife surveillance programme

Fort Collins Coloradoan, Friday, October 31, 1997
Martin Hugh-Jones moderates Promed discussion -- lease send all relevant information
The Colorado Division of Wildlife has a surveillance programme for cases of chronic wasting disease in elk and deer in the state based on hunter shot animals.

So far this hunting season, 5/300 deer and 1/160 elk taken in Larimer County have tested positive. Last year, by the end of the season, 6.5% of deer and 1.5% of the elk tested positive.

Mike Miller, the DOW state veterinarian, commented that statewide testing continues to indicate that the disease is concentrated in the Fort Collins and Fort Morgan areas. Cases have also been reported in Wyoming. It is unknown why it appears to be centered on Larimer county.

Michael W. Miller, DVM, PhD Responds

Thu, 20 Nov 97 15:53:34 MST correspondence
Re: Ongoing chronic wasting disease surveillance

In order to avoid any misperceptions (e.g., silence = subterfuge), we're responding to Martin Hugh-Jones' request for further comment on his 11 November 1997 posting. There is not much to add.

Chronic wasting disease is enzootic in northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. The Coloradoan article referred to by Hugh-Jones was encouraged as part of our efforts to remind local hunters about participating in this year's harvest survey. Such surveys have been conducted in various enzootic areas for over a decade, and similar articles have appeared during hunting seasons for the last year or two. Hunting seasons in Colorado and Wyoming are still underway, and our surveys are still in progress. Because well over 2,000 samples have been collected in Colorado and Wyoming so far this year, diagnostic evaluations and data analyses are also incomplete.

Consequently, any additional data provided now would be premature and likely subject to change as our analyses are completed. To us, it seems somewhat unnecessary to burden ProMED-mail subscribers by reporting our surveillance findings incrementally. Chronic wasting disease isn't new, and the only thing about it that's really "emerging" is awareness among some scientists and publics outside the areas where it's been studied for nearly three decades. Although much of the information being collected is considered original research intended for peer-reviewed publication, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and their host of collaborators remain committed to providing reliable public information on chronic wasting disease. As in the past, we will continue to communicate important research findings via press releases and internet postings in a timely fashion when such communications appear warranted.

Michael W. Miller, DVM, PhD
Colorado Division of Wildlife

E. Tom Thorne, DVM
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Elizabeth S. Williams, DVM, PhD
University of Wyoming
"I met Elizabeth & Mike at the Tampa International Wildlife Disease Conference this summer and they kindly agreed to provide ProMED-mail with a proper and complete review of CWD when this tissue collecting season is over. As we can see they have their hands very full. We must just contain ourselves with patience. It will be worth the wait."
 Martin Hugh-Jones,
ProMED-AHEAD Moderator (pro tem)

Mad Cow Disease Has U.S. Cousin: Illness affects deer and elk in Rocky Mountains

The San Francisco Chronicle  APRIL 28, 1997 Glen Martin, Chronicle Staff Writer
An incurable malady is killing deer and elk in the Rocky Mountains, and researchers will not rule out the possibility that humans could die from eating meat from animals infected with the disease.

Chronic wasting disease afflicts wild ungulates in central Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. It is a cousin of mad cow disease, which has bred panic throughout Britain and made thousands of people there give up beefsteaks and burgers. People who eat beef from cattle ill with mad cow disease can develop Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is invariably fatal. Scientists think the thousands of British cattle afflicted with mad cow disease contracted it by eating processed meal manufactured from carcasses of sheep infected with scrapie, a similar disorder.

Mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease, scrapie and chronic wasting disease are all ''spongiform encephalopathies'' -- diseases that fatally riddle brain tissue with myriad microscopic holes. Victims drool, stumble, become emaciated and suffer dementia before dying. Now researchers are wondering if people can develop Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease by eating venison from Rocky Mountain deer and elk afflicted with chronic wasting disease.

''We're advising people about chronic wasting disease because we want to err on the side of being conservative without being alarmist,'' said Michael Miller, the chief veterinarian with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. ''Unfortunately, we can't make any absolute guarantees about this or any other disease and we can't prove that something (won't) happen.''
The disease is of concern to Californians and others since Colorado is a major destination state for hunters. Several hundred California hunters obtain Colorado big- game tags each year, hoping to bag one of the hundreds of thousands of mule deer and elk that romp through the state's wildlands.

Additionally, what could happen in Colorado could happen elsewhere -- including California, which teems with black-tailed deer. Spongiform encephalopathies are usually passed from one animal to another, but there is also evidence that they may arise spontaneously in isolated populations of animals that have never been exposed to the diseases.

Spongiform encephalopathies do not appear to be caused by the usual disease agents -- viruses, bacteria and the like. Instead, most researchers think, they are the result of ''prions'' -- rogue proteins that cause other proteins to assume a useless form. There is no preventive vaccine nor any cure. Cooking does not destroy prions.

Victims typically get the diseases by eating the tissue of an animal contaminated with prions, although an exchange of body fluids or simple body contact may also play a role in some cases.

Chronic wasting disease was first noted in a group of captive mule deer in Colorado in the 1960s. The disease was confirmed as a form of spongiform encephalopathy in the mid-1970s, though the prion theory for such maladies did not develop until a few years ago.

Since 1981, about 70 Colorado deer and elk have been found with the active phase of the disease. All came from a small area near the town of Fort Collins. A few sick animals have also been identified in a small portion of southeastern Wyoming near Laramie, about 50 miles northwest of Fort Collins.

''It's a fascinating area of study,'' said Beth Williams, a professor of veterinary sciences with the University of Wyoming at Laramie. ''This is the only known reservoir of spongiform encephalopathy in wild ungulates in the world. And it's only found in this one small portion of the Rocky Mountains.''
Williams said no one knows how long prions have been plaguing elk and deer in the Laramie- Fort Collins area.
''We don't think it has been that long, though, because it's only been in the last 20 years or so that people have been bringing in (infected) animals to us,'' she said.
Right now, wildlife officials are trying to get a handle on the dimensions of the problem. Last year, Colorado tested deer and elk heads collected from hunters participating in a voluntary program.
''About 6 percent of the deer brains and 1 percent of the elk brains showed evidence of infection,'' said Todd Malmsbury, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. ''We don't consider that a really reliable sampling because the program was voluntary and the number of heads collected didn't give us a truly representative view of the entire population of animals. This year, though, we're requiring all hunters to turn in the heads of their kills, so we should get a better idea of what's going on.''
Malmsbury said the hunters who turned in infected heads were notified of the test results and advised not to eat the meat of the animals they killed. Word of the problem has Colorado's hunters concerned, said Division of Wildlife scientist Miller, but they are not panicked -- unlike beefeaters in Britain. The difference in reaction is probably due to the very different paths the two diseases have taken.

Mad cow disease was greatly ''amplified,'' as scientists put it, by the contaminated meal they were fed. Hundreds of thousands of cattle probably ate prion-infected meal for many years before large numbers of bovines began displaying symptoms. The elk and deer around Fort Collins have no access to such tainted feed.

It is not clear how the disease is spreading among the animals -- perhaps through fighting, breeding activity or simple body contact.

''Hunters are following this closely, but most don't feel the threat is that great,'' said Miller. ''One thing is for sure -- there hasn't been any decrease in demand for deer and elk tags, including for the Fort Collins area.''
[Note: in other areas of Colorado deer and elk are routinely fed protein cake during the winter to compenstate for loss of winter range. Miller's department derives its revenue from hunting tags and thus is potentially conflicted in its public advisory capacity. There is potential exposure to the hunter in cutting through spinal cord of an infected animal. -- webmaster]

Samples show disease more prevalent in deer

Rocky Mountain News December 15, 1996 
Chronic wasting disease is more prevalent among mule deer along Colorado's north Front Range than biologists previously had thought. Examinations of mule deer heads turned in by hunters this fall revealed 6% of mule deer bucks in Larimer County and some areas east of Interstate 25 may be suffering from the disease of the nervous system.

Past studies had indicated 1% of mule deer suffered from chronic wasting disease. The recent samples also showed elk rarely are infected [1.5% level reported -- webmaster]. Chronic wasting disease has been observed for 200 years in domestic sheep. State health and wildlife officials are paying more attention to it now, partly because of its similarities with ''mad cow'' disease. It is not thought to have spread beyond northeastern Colorado, and there is no evidence humans can be infected. As a precaution, however, hunters are advised not to eat the meat of animals that show signs of disease.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is expected to intensify its monitoring efforts by requiring more hunters to bring in samples.

Methodological issues

Dr. Michael Hansen Consumer's Union
Note the figures for last year were derived "by the end of the season". Perhaps the more CWD deer are killed later in the season. At the start of the season, all deer and elk have to remember that humans can hunt them. Toward the end of the season, the smarter deer have learned to hide again and do the stupid (i.e. staggering/ shaking CWD) deer have a higher probability of getting shot.

The incubation period for CWD isn't clear as well as how early in the incubation period can they detect CWD. Also, I'm assuming they're using immunohistochemistry or Western blots (PrP extraction) rather than microscopic pathology for the diagnosis of CWD but this needs confirmation.

E.U. Set To Exempt Some Pharmaceuticals From Meat Rule

Dow Jones  By Jonathan Stearns Fri, Nov 14, 1997
BRUSSELS --The European Union Commission will move early next week to exempt "life-saving" pharmaceuticals from a forthcoming E.U. ban on products deemed at risk of harboring "mad cow" disease, Commission agriculture and industry officials said Friday. The move, planned for a meeting Tuesday in Strasbourg, France, comes amid claims by the U.S. that the Jan. 1 ban will block billions of dollars a year of U.S. pharmaceuticals exports unless the U.S. introduces stricter meat processing rules.

It also comes despite earlier Commission pledges to await the opinion of E.U. scientists about whether exemptions from the ban for E.U. trade partners are warranted before authorizing them. A key E.U. scientific committee is expected to give its view on the matter on Nov. 21.

But pressure from the U.S. and a desire to ensure adequate E.U. supplies of important drugs have prompted the Commission to act before it gets a scientific opinion, the officials said. The E.U. ban will be on products made from animal remains that could contain bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. The remains - known as specified risk material - are the head and spine of cattle, sheep and goats over 12 months old and the spleen of all sheep and goats.

The ban affects tallow production. Tallow is generally made from whole cattle carcasses. Tallow derivatives are used in an estimated 80% of pharmaceuticals, as well as in cosmetics and other goods.

The Commission has yet to decide what pharmaceuticals will be exempted from the risk material ban. An industry official said the exemption will cover "products for which there is no alternative." A farm official said it will cover "life-saving and essential" pharmaceuticals. In any case, the officials insisted that the exemptions to be approved next week cover only a limited number of products.

They said broader exemptions will depend on the views of the E.U. Scientific Committee on BSE and the E.U. Scientific Veterinary Committee. Those committees have been asked to examine the merits of exemptions on the basis of the BSE-history of countries and of procedures for treating meat. The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have asked to be exempted from the ban because they have never had BSE.

The Commission is willing to grant total exemptions to New Zealand and Australia because the BSE-risk there is said to be tiny. But it has said a blanket exemption for the U.S. isn't justifiable because the country has had scrapie, a brain ailment in sheep similar to BSE.

The U.S. earlier this month said the risk material ban is the biggest trade problem between the U.S. and E.U. The ban is part of Commission efforts to boost consumer safety after the 1996 scare about BSE. The BSE scare resulted from a U.K. announcement in March 1996 of a possible link between BSE in beef and a fatal brain ailment in humans.

US says threat of mad cow trade war averted

Reuters World Report Fri, Nov 7, 1997 By Jude Webber
ROME - The United States said on Friday enough progress had been achieved at a transatlantic business meeting to avert the threat of a trade war with the European Union over a ban on beef by-products that carry a risk of mad cow disease. U.S. Undersecretary of State for Trade Stuart Eizenstat, who earlier this week warned Washington could not "stand idly by" if the ban took effect, told reporters in Rome he saw "a very clear indication there is a desire for a settlement.

" The European Commission ban outlawing the use of beef by-products such as gelatine and tallow that may carry a risk of mad cow disease or other animal brain diseases is due to take effect on January 1 and would hammer U.S. drugs firms.

"We are a long way from reaching it (a settlement), but we have taken the first major step away from confrontation towards a cooperative solution," Eizenstat told reporters at the end of the two-day Transatlantic Business Dialogue meeting (TABD) in Rome.
Although the United States has no cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, it is not certified as free of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), a brain-wasting disease that affects sheep and goats.

U.S. and European pharmaceutical firms insist the health risk is minute and say the ban could hit 80 percent of medicines on sale in Europe, deprive sick people of vital drugs and affect some $4.5 billion a year of drug imports from the United States. Eizenstat said earlier this week that the two-way trade in medicines, pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products which use cattle-derived tallow or gelatines is worth $14 billion a year.

"Progress has been made at this meeting to make us feel that the ban won't be implemented on January 1," Stanley Taurel, President and Chief Operating Officer of U.S. drugs group Eli Lilly and Co told reporters.
Industry executives from both sides of the Atlantic used the meeting to call for all drugs firms to be exempted from the ban. Asked if there had been a breakthrough, Taurel said: "Yes. We don't have the final solution yet, but there is strong will on both sides." European Commission Vice-President Sir Leon Brittan said constructive work was underway to solve the problem.
"The less recrimination and more action there is, the better the chances," he told a closing news conference.
European Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann said it may be possible to make the dispute less "burdensome" by dealing with tallow and gelatine separately. Excluding tallow, which presents "virtually no risk" when a certain production method is used, would remove 70-80 percent of the problem, he said. He said the rest could be dealt with "in a different way." "We have not found a definitive solution but we working to find a definitive solution before January 1," he said.

The EU ban follows concerns that humans may risk contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) -- a brain-wasting disease similar to mad cow disease -- from BSE-contaminated products. The EU banned exports of British beef in March 1996 after London admitted a possible link between BSE and CJD. Taurel said earlier the industry had assessed that if the CJD risk existed, the risk of contracting it from taking three gelatine capsules a day for a year was one in 100 billion -- 100,000 times less likely than being struck by lightning. [Don't hold your breath waiting for this estimate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal -- webmaster]

Belgium changes system after madcow feed mistake

Reuters World Report Fri, Nov 14, 1997
BRUSSELS - Belgium said on Friday it had changed its slaughter system after an administrative error resulted in the carcass of an animal with mad cow disease being turned into animal feed and exported. Farm Minister Karel Pinxten told a news conference that in future all cows suspected of suffering from a nervous disease such as rabies or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy would automatically be slaughtered and incinerated.

In the past cows suffering from rabies have been slaughtered and turned into animal feed.

"The situation that arose around our first case of BSE showed...the application of different procedures for BSE and for rabies was the cause of the slaughtering of an animal suffering from BSE and its being turned into feed," Pinxten said.
The case of the mad cow-contaminated animal feed came to light at the end of October. The cow in question had been slaughtered on suspicion of having rabies. Although the rabies test proved negative and tests for BSE began, the carcass was processed into animal feed which was sold in Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands.

It was not until more than a month after the slaughtering and processing that tests on its brain finally proved it had been suffering from mad cow disease. Pinxten said all the tainted feed sold in Belgium had been traced and it had been established that all of it was for animals such as pigs and chickens in which feed is permitted to include animal protein. It was, he said, therefore safe. [Pigs are susceptible to TSE, chickens have never been tested -- webmaster]

It is illegal to include animal protein in feed for cows which are ruminants.

"As the Netherlands and Poland also ban the inclusion of animal protein in ruminant feed, that too should be as safe," he added.
He said the authorities in both countries had been given all the details necessary to trace the contaminated feed.

Pinxten said that rigorous tracing of the origins of the infected cow had proved beyond reasonable doubt that it had not caught the infection from its mother or from contaminated feed or drugs. In the absence of any other evidence, it therefore had to be concluded that the case of mad cow disease had been one of spontaneous infection from an unknown cause, he concluded.

Polish case of nvCJD?

Aftonbladet, TT-DPA, November 14, 1997
Swedish media reported today a suspected case of nvCJD in Poland. The possible victim is a 20-year-old female student from Posnan that recently died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

The young woman didn't eat much meat, according to her parents. However, as a child she often had beef. Polish authorities will further investigate the case.

CJD case in Maine

13 Nov 1997 Correspondent
"My best friend in Port Elizabeth, Maine told me her plumber's father-law died of "mad cow disease" within the last two weeks. His body was autopsied in Portland, Maine. The CDC was present. The plumber said there was definitely one other death, maybe two. Chilling news. I'll be talking with her again this weekend and find out how and if the local news media covered it, the hospital, the name of the plumber, etc. I have no reason not to believe it. Consider it a solid rumor."

BSE report sees progress on EU science advice

Thu, 13 Nov 1997  NATURE news online
Paris -- The European Parliament last week wrapped up its investigation of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis. The conclusion of the final report by the temporary committee on BSE is that the European Commission (EC) has made substantial progress in reforming its system of providing scientific advice. But the report "deplores" that although most of the EC officials responsible for handling BSE have been assigned to other duties, none has been otherwise disciplined.

The conclusion lifts the parliament's earlier threat to sack the EC's commissioners if its demands were not met. Some observers argue that the parliament has been highly successful in using the threat to obtain changes in the way the EC operates, in particular a radical reform of its scientific committees to distance them from economic interests and make their deliberations more open (see Nature 385, 664; 1997). Details of the committees and their proceedings are available.

Scientist fears CJD in blood reserves

November 10 1997  BY A CORRESPONDENT Times
A LEADING government health adviser believes there is a "significant risk" that CJD could be present in the national blood supply. John Pattison, chairman of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Body, says the Government, which received his report on recent discoveries about new variant CJD last week, should take preventive action. He tells Panorama on BBC1 tonight:
"It's a significant risk for public health, one that we need to be concerned about."
He advises that individuals might want to donate their own blood for their own use in order to minimise any possible risk of infection, and also urges the medical profession to give transfusions only to those who really need them.
"I think the principle that's involved is to reduce the exposure of any individual to someone else's blood."
However, the warnings have not convinced the National Blood Authority that blood transfusion patients need to be worried about possible infection. Sue Cunningham, a spokesman, said yesterday: "There is no evidence that CJD has passed through our blood supplies."

Blood chiefs reassure patients over CJD fears

PA News  Sun, Nov 16, 1997 By Jeanette Pearson
The National Blood Authority today moved to reassure patients over fears that stocks could be infected with CJD amid signs that more are opting to store their own blood before an operation. Fifteen-year-old Louis Wingate became the latest to give a pre-donation as a precaution in case a transfusion is required during his abdominal operation in two weeks' time.

But a spokeswoman from the NBA said today said she did not expect there would be a sudden influx of patients wanting to stock up on their own blood supplies because there was no evidence that the disease could be passed on through blood.

"The benefits of having a blood transfusion far outweigh the risk of contracting CJD," said the spokeswoman.
There are 1,000-2,000 people in the UK who take similar precautionary measures every year as concern grows about the possible contamination of blood-borne diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and CJD. In the US, around 400,000 patients opt for so-called autologous transfusions every year but in Britain they have so far failed to take off because of the high reputation of the blood service.

Professor John Pattison, head of a team of scientists advising the government on CJD, has recently urged doctors to keep transfusions to a minimum because of the possibility that a new variant of CJD could be transmitted through blood. Mr Pattison's recommendations have led the government to launch a study of the risk that transfusions could pass on the infection. The NBA spokeswoman said: "Autologous transfusions have not been that popular in this country because it is only suitable for a small proportion of patients.

"For example, it can only be used by people having elective surgery, the red cells will only last upto 35 days and therefore blood has got to be donated one month before surgery. People who are too young or too old or too sick cannot give a pre-donation. So far there has never been a case of CJD being passed on through blood. More people may well opt to give a pre-donation but it will not be a huge number. The authority does all it can to minimise the risks. The difficulty is that nvCJD is a new disease and so far there have only been 22 cases in this country," she added.
Bupa hospitals offer the facility for 100 to 200 pounds, as does the National Blood Authority.

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