Thursday, November 22, 2001

From Mad-Cow to Cow-Dreading Disease

A second case of mad cow disease has been found in Japan during a nationwide inspection of all cows. Since this inspection of all beef focusing on that for consumption began on October 18th, 87, 872 were negative, so that means that 1 out of every 88,000 (0.00114%) has been infected with the disease. If we include the first infected cow discovered on September 22, the ratio would be 1 out of every 44,000 (0.00228%). Approximately 1,300,000 cows are said to be slaughtered annually in Japan, so that means there is a possibility that anywhere between 15-30 infected cows may be found within the next year. In that case, then, it may be possible to control the situation with the system of nationwide inspection of all cows now in place and prevent human infection. There are predictions, however, that it may not be all that easy.

Presently, the government suspects the source of infection to be contaminated animal feed made from meat-and-bone meal imported from England and other contaminated areas. The two infected cows found so far (1) are both five years old, (2) were both born in Hokkaido, and (3) are both Holstein dairy cows. Since meat-and-bone meal increases the milk in dairy cows, the possibility of feeding it to dairy cows is greater than beef cattle, and, since the incubation period is so long (two to eight years), cows that have been given this animal feed long enough and have grown old are finally killed for human consumption, then tested "positive." However, there is also data that contradicts this. That is, in each of these two cases, those raising the cows deny having given them any of this animal feed. The government blames the lack of thorough administrative guidance for the situation, but, if what the breeders are saying is true, that means there is a source of infection other than the meat-and-bone meal.

One possibility that has been given is infection from mother to child. In the cases of this disease found in England, approximately 10% are thought to have been passed from mother to child. If that is the case, then, the second infected cow found in Japan has already had three calves, so it is possible that one of the three is infected with the causative agent, a prion or abnormal partially-proteinase K-resistant protein. Dr. Richard Lacey, authority on Mad Cow Disease commented about this parent to child infection in the December issue of Bungei Shunju as follows, "The blood is the most suspicious route for prion infection." According to Dr. Lacey, "In many instances, there have been confirmed cases in which the protein antibody has been inherited from mother to child, so we can conclude that prion, which is a type of protein, can be passed through the bloodstream from mother to child. Even in areas of the body other than those known to be dangerous, as long as there is blood circulating through that area, we cannot say they are entirely safe." If we can't say that the blood is safe, then we cannot say that steak or barbeque meat are safe either, so the problem is quite serious.

Since the government issued assurances that homegrown beef was safe to eat, consumption of beef was slightly on the rise, but, with this second confirmed case of Mad Cow Disease, it will more than likely decrease once again. "Mad Cow Disease"" where the brain of the cow is affected, has become a "Cow-Dreading Disease" in which humans are now afraid of cows. As I have written before, I would like to encourage readers to take this opportunity and stop eating beef altogether. Eating beef not only has these safety issues, but it isn't good for the preservation of the environment, nor is it desirable from a religious perspective either.

- MT

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