Study Shows Mad Cow Disease Can be Genetic

Cows don't need to be fed cows in order to get BSE.


Previously believed to be a food-borne disease, researchers have discovered that some cows are genetically predisposed to contract bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The report shows that up to 48,000 cattle in the United States alone could carry the gene.

The study concludes that even under the best grass-fed, grazing conditions, cows could still contract the fatal disease. “Our findings that there is a genetic component to BSE are significant because they tell you we can have this disease everywhere in the world, even in so-called BSE-free countries,” said Juergen A. Richt, the professor at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine who conducted the study.

If the spinal chord or brain matter of an diseased cow is consumed, a human will contract BSE in the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The human form can also be genetic, which led Richt to compare genes from these cases to the genes from a 10-year-old infected cow from Alabamaβ€”as it turned out, they shared the same protein gene mutation.

Richt has created and submitted a patent for a test to detect genetic BSE that could be given to all bulls and cows before they are used for production. In the meantime, this is another reason to cut down on the beef, or at least lay off the cabeza at your local taqueria.

Photo Credit: Jdickert on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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2 thoughts on “Study Shows Mad Cow Disease Can be Genetic”

  1. Prions are the weirdest damn things in the universe… they aren’t alive and they aren’t like a virus, but they’ll take over your brain and make you go crazy. Serve me up another hamburger.

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