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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Authors
item Harman, Jane - NHLB/DPPS/EB
item Silva, Christopher

Submitted to: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: January 1, 2008
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Citation: Harman, J.L., Silva, C.J. 2009. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. (2009)234(1):59-72

Interpretive Summary: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal illness of cattle caused by a new kind of disease agent, called a prion. Prions are proteins with the ability to increase their numbers by converting a normal cellular protein into a prion. This increase of prions eventually leads to disease. BSE is the first known prion disease to cause illness in animals and people. Because of this it has attracted a lot of scientific interest. BSE has also attracted a remarkable amount of public interest. Other animals, such as sheep and deer, get prion diseases, but none of these illnesses are as well known as BSE. This article summarizes the scientific papers relating to BSE and is intended to teach the practicing veterinarian about BSE. The BSE research summarized in this article includes the work of veterinarians, doctors, and scientists. This article discusses the symptoms of the disease, how it spreads through the body, how to identify BSE, and how to destroy prions. Other topics include a general history of how BSE was discovered and controlled by removing meat and bone meal (MBM) from the diet of cattle. This article summarizes what is known about other prions and how they cause disease in other animals.

Technical Abstract: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is caused by a novel contagion, known to as a prion. Prions are proteins capable of converting a normal cellular protein into a prion, thereby propagating an infection. BSE is the first known prion zoonotic. As such it has attracted broad scientific and, to a remarkable extent, public interest. Although prions cause disease in other mammals, none of the other prion diseases has commanded the attention received by BSE. This article reviews the scientific literature relating to BSE and is intended to inform the practicing veterinarian. The BSE research reviewed reflects the diversity of prion researchers and includes veterinarians, physicians, and physical scientists. This article discusses the clinical symptoms, tissue distribution, detection, and eradication of BSE. Other topics include a general history of the BSE epizootic and the implication of ruminant-derived meat and bone meal (MBM). The previous knowledge of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) is discussed, as is material on the nature of prions, their inactivation, and their pathogenicity as it relates to the genetics of the host.

Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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