Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (cont.)
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Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Causes
Prion diseases are unique and can be transmitted in a variety of ways:
One additional form of human prion disease is called kuru. It was found among native peoples of New Guinea who practiced ritualistic cannibalism (eating of humans, and their brains, specifically). Probably the illness began when a person with sporadic CJD was eaten. Death from kuru takes about one year following the onset of symptoms; however, the average incubation period was about 12 years and can be as long as 40 years. With the end of such rituals, this disease has nearly disappeared in New Guinea.
The disease has been experimentally transmitted among cattle and from cattle to monkeys who eat infected tissue (particularly brain tissue) in lab tests.
But the question remains: How do cattle develop BSE? Feed is the major route for transmission among cattle, according to veterinary medicine experts. When ranchers and farmers feed cattle with products made from other cattle or sheep, such as ruminant feed, they are recycling diseased animal protein in feed containing meat and bone meal, thus causing the disease in cattle. This practice has since been outlawed after the association of BSE with vCJD.
Prions may be transmitted among laboratory animals also through broken skin, suggesting the possibility of similar transmission to humans who contact infected tissue or products and who have broken skin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2016
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Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease, and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) are related disorders.