Web Zap*Germs Archive

June 24, 2005

UK "Western Blot" Test Confirms US Mad Cow Infection

The followup Western blot test of tissue of a US cow that died last November, conducted at a lab in Weybridge, UK, confirmed the animal had the BSE "mad cow" disease. This was the second US animal known to have died of the wasting disease.

The NYT reported that Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns stated the US will be more aggressive in getting confirmation of future BSE cases:
In announcing the test results, Mr. Johanns also said he was directing scientists from the Department of Agriculture to work with international experts to develop a new testing method that includes performing dual tests in the event of other inconclusive tests.

"We are currently testing nearly 1,000 animals per day" as part of the program to detect mad cow disease, Mr. Johanns said. He added that scientists had performed more than 388,000 total tests. "This is the first confirmed case resulting from our surveillance.

"I am encouraged that our interlocking safeguards are working exactly as intended," he said. "This animal was blocked from entering the food supply because of the firewalls we have in place. Americans have every reason to continue to be confident in the safety of our beef."

Mr. Johanns also said that beginning immediately, if another cow disease screening test results in inconclusive findings, the department would run two kinds of tests, including the "Western blot" test conducted in England and an immunohistochemistry test.
The only confirmed case of mad cow in the United States - found in December 2003 in a Washington State dairy cow that was born in Alberta - dealt a huge blow to the nation's $90 billion beef industry. Within days of the discovery, 53 countries banned American beef. The industry has estimated it has lost more than $4 billion a year since then.

About one-third of exports have resumed, but Japan, which represented nearly half of the exports, and South Korea, another top market, have continued to shun American beef.


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