Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hold yer goats...kinda

Calling the disease of the goat in the news "BSE" is a little misleading: What they found was that they were able to use the goat prions to infect mice. According to Web stuff on the UK BSE inquiry, there exists some "mouse bioassay" by which the brain juice of goats with "scrapie" does not appear infective, whereas the juice of mad cows does. One EU press release about the goat used the words "mouse bioassay" in a context that suggests this was the tip-off that this wasn't "scrapie," the centuries-old, brain-wasting, genetically equivalent prion disease of sheep and goats that your mom may or may not have told you about. But as clinical trial failures confirm every year, people aren't mice. So while there's grounds for concern here that this new-fangled scrapie is more infectious than the old kind, we don't actually know these prions hop just like BSE prions do to humans. These are goats folks, so fundamentally they're goat prions. Nobody actually knows enough about BSE prions (my PubMed surfing suggests to me) to call any other species' prions "the same."

But I think the main sense in which news stories are portraying this goat case as likely "BSE" is in the sense of "the BSE epidemic." A lot of the tainted feed that created the epidemic went to animals besides cows, and since then people have been waiting for the other shoe to drop. This 2002 goat looks like it's that shoe. Not counting humans, of course, since we were dropping alongside the cows from the beginning of this story.


Anonymous said...

I hadn't run into the details on the the mice infections. You did a fine job catching the reference in the EU release; there's not much to make it stand out. Unfortunately, we won't be hearing the verdict until a couple years from now. Which, I suppose, will take just as long as it did to announce the disease WAS BSE.

Thanks for pointing that out on my site -- Mike (

Murky Thoughts said...

Thanks. Actually, though, the mouse test is what they did already. This was a goat that died in 2002 and took two years to diagnose by the mouse assay. The ability to drive the mouse mad after two years is the evidence that the prions in the goat aren't ordinary scrapie prions but like BSE prions. That's all the evidence they have on the matter.

Daemon Cain said...

Thanks for your comments on my post as well.

I'm quite familiar with the grain fed options that are available but it begs the question...if eating meat is too dangerous for a cow, a pig and a chicken then why should I feed it to my children? See where I'm going with this?

Don't get me wrong...I'm a meat and potatoes kinda guy and certainly not "pro vegetarianism". But I have to admit this whole thing has got me thinking and, frankly, a bit worried about what could be around the corner from the beef I ate as a child.

The other thing that's so concerning about this to me is why the industry is slowly lulling the public into accepting this as a necessary evil and they are being supported by industry activites and the Canadian government which seems more concerned about the next election and the immediate economic factors then the health of people both inside and outside of Canada's borders.