Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

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BSE epidemic curve in the UK: 1987-2009

BSE epidemic curve in the UK: 1987-2009

Term: 2012
Published: November 20, 2012
Revised: March 18, 2013

The recognition of BSE in British cattle in 1986, its subsequent widespread occurrence in Europe (limited spread to other parts of the world) peaking in the mid-1990s and its association with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD – a fatal human disease), was one of the most momentous health sagas of the 20th Century. Current emphasis on the need for traceability of foodstuffs was precipitated as a consequence of the BSE pandemic.

Because BSE is relatively easily managed the disease is now rare everywhere in the world and will likely soon become historical. However, because BSE is almost certainly caused by an aberrant self-replicating protein that occurs in the cells of normal cattle, it is unlikely that the disease can ever be totally eradicated. For that reason enforcement of control measures necessary to prevent its reoccurrence and spread will need to be maintained in perpetuity.

There are a number of related diseases that affect people and animals ‒ known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), the best known in animals being scrapie of sheep. Only three TSEs affect humans: kuru (historically prevalent among the Fore people of Papua New Guinea who had cannibalistic traditions), CJD and vCJD. vCJD is the only proven zoonosis among the TSEs.

About The Instructor

Dr Gavin Thomson

Dr Gavin Thomson

  • BVSc (Pretoria), MSc (Birmingham, UK – immunology), PhD (London – virology)
  • Extraordinary professor, Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa.
  • Director: TAD Scientific c.c.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
This Work, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy , by Dr Gavin Thomson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.