Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in our Blood Supp

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Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in our Blood Supply


The well-being of the blood supply has always been a vital component of human existence.
It is common knowledge that the existing blood supply is deficient to the increasing usage
of blood and blood products. Ironically, as the topic of blood donation arises in society,
fears and doubts as to how sanitary and healthful the blood of blood donors often surface.
For instance, there is much criticism over allowing foreign travelers to Great Britain the
opportunity to donate their blood. This criticism stems from the belief that the Great
Britain endemic of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE or "Mad Cow Disease") can be
physiologically related to the lethal Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Although there
is hardly any scientific evidence that supports this allegation, the United States
Department of Agriculture and the FDA have introduced strict restrictions concerning the
importation of British cattle products and the blood donation of British travelers.
Critics, politicians, and the general public often utilize the conjecture of illegitimate
facts and myths to shape their opinions concerning BSE. This is fine and great, but I
believe a valid opinion on the subject must be backed by significant facts entailing the
clinical epidemiology and history of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, its relation to
other transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE), possible transmission to the human
species, the causes of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and any relationships between BSE and
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. My opinion, based on the facts, is what I offer to you.


Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a fatal brain disease of cattle. BSE is most common in
dairy cattle, but not rare in beef cattle either. Cattle affected by BSE experience a
progressive degeneration of the nervous system. Infected animals may show changes in
behavior such as nervousness or aggression (hence the term "mad cow disease"), abnormal
posture, lack of milk production, anorexia, and excessive licking. All cattle affected
with BSE either naturally succumb or are euthanized. BSE is most often found in the
Holstein-Fresian of cattle, although all breeds are suseptible. The disease usually is
introduced to the cattle near puberty (12-15 months), and the incubation period of the
disease is 5 or more years. The period of actual infection to death is frighteningly
brief; the animal is usually dead within 4 months of showing symptoms.


BSE belongs to a group of animal diseases term Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy
(TSE). Different forms of TSE diseases can affect felines, rodents, and other ruminant
animals. The microorganism responsible for BSE and TSE's is smaller than the smallest
viruses. This microorganism is called a prion. Prions are exclusively host-coded proteins
that attack the brain and nervous system of host animals, destroying brain tissue and
dismembering the nervous system. The brains of affected animals take on a sponge-like
texture, which explains the term "spongiform" in the clinical name. Prions do not trigger
immune responses or inflammatory reactions, which is why they are unable to be detected
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