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Mad cow disease: everything you need to know about symptoms, causes, and treatment

Mad cow disease: everything you need to know about symptoms, causes, and treatment
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Saturday, February 18, 2023

The first cases of possible infection with mad cow disease appeared during the seventies of the last century, when two cases of mad cow disease were identified in 1986. It is possible that the cause of mad cow disease is caused by animal feed and feed contaminated with prion disease. In this article, you will find everything you need to know about the symptoms, causes, and methods of diagnosis and treatment of mad cow disease.

What is mad cow disease?

Mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a progressive neurological disorder in cattle caused by an infection called a prion. The nature of the transmissible agent is not well understood. Most scientists believe that the development of the disease occurs when the normal cellular protein (prion protein) in the brain loses its normal shape, which leads to an imbalance of the prion protein, and causes the destruction of brain cells and tissues of the nervous system.

In an infected animal, prions are concentrated in two areas of the body: tissues of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and eyes, and lymphoid tissues, such as the lymph nodes, bone marrow, and spleen.

Mad cow symptoms

Symptoms of mad cow disease include:

  • Changes in cattle behaviour
  • Tremor
  • Excessive responses to stimuli
  • Ataxia, any imbalance while walking
  • Aggressiveness so that infected cattle become a source of danger to other animals
  • Decreased milk production
  • Weight loss
  • Licking the body constantly, and this is rare

Can humans get mad cow disease?

In rare cases, people can get mad cow disease by contracting a human form of mad cow disease called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), which is fatal. Over time, CJD damages the brain and spinal cord. People contract the disease as a result of eating infected cows. There are no studies confirming the possibility of infection when drinking the milk of infected cows or eating dairy products.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is divided into four main types, including:

1. Intermittent Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

This type is considered the most common, although it is the most common type of people rarely exposed to it, and most cases occur in adults between the ages of 45 and 75 years old. Symptoms develop on average between ages 60 and 65 years old.

2. Variable Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

The initial stages of the disease can last for a long time (the incubation period), as the latter can be transmitted through blood from one person to another.

3. Hereditary Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

It is a very rare genetic condition in which an inherited gene (the prion protein gene) causes prions to form in the brain during adulthood, resulting in symptoms of CJD. Initial symptoms of the disease usually appear in people in their early 50s.

Less than 15% of people with the disease have a family history of the disease or it is confirmed that they have a genetic mutation associated with it.

4. Iatrogenic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Infection can be transmitted through brain surgery with instruments contaminated with prions, the particles responsible for transmitting infection.

Symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease typically affects men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 years old. However, the variant form of CJD affects young people as well (average age of onset is 28), Its symptoms include:

  • Tingling, burning, or tingling in the face, hands, feet, or legs.
  • memory loss
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of balance and coordination
  • speech problems
  • Vision problems and blindness
  • natural movements
  • Gradual loss of brain function and mobility

Most people with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease die within a year symptoms, usually due to infection.

Also read: What is rabies and how is it treated?

Reasons mad cow disease

1. Unknown causes

Transmission of the disease is linked to the entry into the body of the cattle prion, which is a protein of unknown origin. making its transmission process poorly understood.

2. Possibility of association with infection

Prion infection causes divisions and imbalances in the central nervous system of cattle and humans. According to many studies, the prion enters the body of cattle through the provision of infected ground meat and bones as fodder for feeding. This can happen to humans when eating infected beef.

Complications of mad cow disease

Mad cow disease affects the brain greatly, as it damages the central nervous system of cattle.. The latter is usually characterized by its rapid development in cows, in cases of people with CJD caused by mad cow disease, many of them may enter a coma that leads to death.

diagnosis mad cow disease

Symptoms of the disease may not appear in its early stages. In advanced stages, the diagnosis is made by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Doctors analyze the presence of this disease by excluding the presence of other neurological diseases similar to it in terms of symptoms.

When a person is infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a blood sample is taken to rule out the presence of other similar neurological diseases or to see if the human blood contains abnormal proteins that are in the affected cow, and it is possible to perform a brain analysis to see if there are other neurological diseases, or to take a biopsy Histological and laboratory study of the brain.

Mad cow treatment

In general, there is no cure for mad cow disease. Doctors focus on providing support to patients and relieving the symptoms that the patient feels, by providing walking aids or adopting pain-relieving medications.

Frequently asked questions that may interest you

Is mad cow disease hereditary?

Some results appear recent studies About the causes of mad cow disease that sometimes it may be hereditary, as it can be caused by a genetic mutation within a gene called the prion protein gene, which is abundantly expressed in the brain and immune cells of mammals.

Can other animals get mad cow disease?

Sheep and goats can develop symptoms similar to mad cow disease of a particular type, and for domestic pets, cats are among the animals that can be exposed to the disease, feline spongiform encephalopathy.

Public health control measures by way of surveillance measures, isolation of sick animals, or bans of specific hazardous substances have been put in place in many countries, especially countries with confirmed local cases of the disease, in order to prevent potentially infected tissues from affecting on the human food supply.

Also read: Hepatic hydatid cyst in humans.. What is this disease associated with dogs and cattle?


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