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Researchers find genetic mutation that can cause BSE

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Sep 19, 2008
By dvm360.com staff
Manhattan, Kan. -- Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, isn't just a food-born illness, according to a new study conducted at Kansas State University (KSU).

"We now know it's also in the genes of cattle," says Dr. Juergen Richt of the Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology Department at KSU's College of Veterinary Medicine. "Our findings that there is a genetic component to BSE are significant because they tell you we can have this disease everywhere in the world, even in so-called BSE-free countries."

The genetic mutation that Richt says can cause BSE occurs within the Prion Protein Gene. Prion proteins are expressed abundantly in the brain and immune systems of animals, according to the university.

But infectious Prion proteins take a long time to develop and BSE caused by genetic mutations is extremely rare, Richt says. The new discovery will allow for a new testing opportunity to prevent the disease. KSU has submitted a patent for a test for bulls and cows to screen for the mutation before they are bred.