[IWAR] BIO 'Mad Cow' probe

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Mon Mar 09 1998 - 12:33:52 PST

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    This is going to be an interesting issue.  For anyone who is tracking bio/chem
    warfare, prions open
    a whole new range of problems, as they are proteins (not DNA, and a step above
    a chemical) which
    appear to be able to convert other like-proteins into similar dangerous forms
    just through molecular
    contact (for anyone familiar with nanotechnology, this looks like an
    assembler-gone-wrong, where
    you get a cascade threat that is geometric, as a single 'bad' protein converts
    others, which then
    convert more).  Molecular chemistry isn't advanced enough to cope with this
    sort of threat; the
    real danger is that a small amount of the material could have been consumed,
    but the 'incubation'
    period is long as it requires random-path molecular conversion before you start
    to get effects you
    can recognize as a disease (as the small number of ingested protein convert
    other 'normal' protein
    in the brain to 'bad' protein, they 'stack' and form 'chains' of molecules
    which appear to do the real
    damage in the brain).  The condition is non-reverseable (as of now), and the
    only reliable method
    to confirm the condition is autopsy. --MW
     Monday March 9 11:36 AM EST 
     Britain Starts Probe of Mad Cow Scandal
     By Paul Keller 
     LONDON (Reuters) - Britain launched a wide-ranging inquiry Monday to try to
    identify the causes of mad cow disease
     and its deadly human equivalent. 
     The probe, set to last 18 months, will attempt to give a definitive account of
    one of Britain's worst public health scandals
     which has crippled the beef industry and dented Britain's standing in Europe. 
     The inquiry into mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE),
    chaired by senior judge Sir Nicholas
     Phillips, was ordered by Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham. 
     The ruling Labor Party accuses the previous Conservative government of
    overseeing lax animal feed regulations which
     allowed the disease to take hold in the late 1980s, and of failing to act
    quickly enough to contain the crisis. 
     Phillips has promised, however, that there will be no witch-hunt and that the
    aim is not to find fault, but to see what can be
     learned from previous errors. 
     "This is an extremely important inquiry. Many people have been affected, some
    tragically, by BSE and Creutzfeld-Jakob
     Disease (CJD, the human equivalent). I hope this inquiry will reveal events
    and decisions which led to the spread of these
     diseases," Phillips said. 
     The costs of the investigation, including a website which will carry daily
    transcripts and witnesses' submissions, are
     estimated at 10 million pounds ($16 million). The website started by giving an
    account of the early cases of BSE and CJD.
     The inquiry is likely to call hundreds of ministers, former ministers, civil
    servants, scientists and farmers in the coming
     months in a bid to find out why the authorities were slow to understand the
    risks of mad cow disease and equally slow to
     take action. 
     Phillips is joined on the panel by former top civil servant June Bridgeman and
    Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, a Professor of
     Pathology at Cambridge University. 
     His inquiry will look at government policy well before November 1986 when the
    first case of BSE was confirmed in
     Britain, and will go up to March 1996. 
     Mad cow disease has resulted in the slaughter of thousands of cattle both in
    Britain and abroad. The crisis prompted the
     European Union to impose a beef export ban in March 1996 which is still in
     The ban was implemented after scientists identified a new variant of CJD, a
    deadly human brain-wasting illness which they
     said could be contracted by eating infected beef. 
     The feeding of meal containing sheep and cattle offal to cows, which are
    natural herbivores, has been blamed for the
     development of the disease. The practice was banned in Britain in September
     So far 24 cases of new-strain CJD have been confirmed. But the disease's long
    incubation period means cases could date
     back to eating beef contaminated with mad cow disease in the 1980s, making it
    impossible to predict how many more will
     be affected, doctors say.

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