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Mad Cow Disease

  Mar 27, 2023

Mad Cow Disease

Q. Why is this in News?

A. Recently, Brazil has halted its beef exports to China after a case of Mad Cow Disease was confirmed in the northern state of Para.

Q. What is Mad Cow Disease?

  • About:
    • Also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) is degenerative, transmissible, slowly progressive, and a fatal infection that affects the central nervous system of adult cattle.
  • Causes:
    • BSE is caused by a protein called a prion normally found on cell surfaces, the normal prion protein changes into an abnormal prion protein that is harmful.
      • After getting altered, these proteins destroy the nervous system tissue- the brain and spinal cord.
    • The body of a sick cow does not even know the abnormal prion is there. Without knowing it is there, the cow’s body cannot fight off the disease.
  • Transmission:
    • A cow gets BSE by eating feed contaminated with parts that came from another cow that was sick with BSE.
  • Symptoms:
    • A common sign of BSE in cows is incoordination. A sick cow has trouble walking and getting up and may also act very nervous or violent.
    • It usually takes four to six years from the time a cow is infected with the abnormal prion to when it first shows symptoms of BSE. This is called the incubation period. During the incubation period, there is no way to tell that a cow has BSE by looking at it.
    • Once a cow starts to show symptoms, it gets sicker and sicker until it dies, usually within two weeks to six months.
  • Treatment:
    • There is no treatment for BSE and no vaccine to prevent it.