By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only

M = Mad Cow Disease

In 1907, Dr. Alzheimer published a treatise about a disease that would one day carry his name. He had two young colleagues who worked with him, Dr. Creutzfeldt and Dr. Jakob, and they too identified a similar brain-wasting disease that now has Europe in a panic. The brains of cows turn into a sponge-like mass and their behavior is called "mad." The human variant of Mad Cow Diesease has been named Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, or CJD. The protein causing CJD has no DNA, and has been described as more like a crystal than cellular material. In labs, 1000 degree Fahrenheit heat does not destroy this protein particle. Some scientists say that once infected, the incubation period can last anywhere from one month to thirty years. As the human brain turns into a sponge, this spongioform encephalitic condition physically debilitates those so infected.

"Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a fatal neurological disease of cattle first recognized in the United Kingdom in 1986...a growing body of (still largely circumstantial) evidence suggests that BSE may be transmissible to humans."

J Public Health Policy, 1998, 19:2

"Routes of transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy have not yet been determined."

The Lancet, 1999 Nov, 354:9191

"The destruction of milk from suspected cows was recommended in England to insure the public's safety...Experiments also indicate that temperatures reached during pasteurization of milk and household cooking does not kill the agent. In the United Kingtom on December 1, 1988 the government announced a ban on the sale of milk from infected cattle..."

Mad Cows and Milkgate, Virgil Hulse, M.D.

"In 1996, a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)-a disease that causes lack of coordination, muscle twitching or jerking, dementia, and, eventually, death-suddenly appeared in Great Britain."

Environ Health Perspect, 1998 Mar, 106:3

"Compelling scientific evidence suggests so-called prion disease can and has infected present, there is no reliable antemortem diagnosis, specific treatment, or vaccine to prevent the disease. The agent thought to be responsible for this unusual class of disease is a rogue protein (called a prion) that, unlike all other agents known to cause infectious disease, contains neither DNA nor RNA. The "bad" prion forms cause holes or a spongy appearance in the brain in all disease variants, hence the generic designation of spongiform encephalopathy."

Quintessence Int, 1998 May, 29:5

"Transmission of prions from infected cattle to humans by oral intake seems not only possible but also very probable."

Ann Ital Med Int, 1998 Oct, 13:4

"The outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy has had major impacts on the United Kingdom dairy industry, including the loss of beef from dairy markets, the culling of more than 900,000 dairy bull calves, the removal of all cattle more than 30 months of age from the human food chain, and now slaughter of cohort animals. Impacts on dairy marketing have yet to be properly assessed."

J Dairy Sci, 1998 Nov, 81:11

"Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease belong to a group of degenerative neurological disorders collectively known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. All the diseases have long incubation periods which, depending on the host, may range from many months to several decades. Death is inevitable after a slow progressive illness."

British Med Bull, 1998, 54:3

"A 24-year-old vegetarian has been diagnosed with Cruetzfeld-Jacob disease. Scientists fear that milk and cheese may be the source of infection."

London Times, August 23, 1997 Michael Hornsby

Robert Cohen author of:   MILK A-Z

Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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