Of mice and cows

New test can detect bse faster

Tomorrow’s ie of nature will publish preliminary results on the accuracy of the simple biochemical test developed specifically to screen slaughtered cattle for bse.

The researchers, led by jean-philippe deslys of the service de neurovirologie, fontenay-aux-roses, france, conclude that "this test is currently the best we have and can help keep infected meat out of the food chain". The new test – which was only recently approved by the european union – is being compared by deslys and his colleagues to the long-existing "mouse bioassay"-test in which mice are injected with tie samples from cattle brains. If the samples were contaminated with bse, the mice also developed corresponding symptoms. The rough disadvantage of this test: it is very time-consuming. Therefore, it is not considered suitable for the comprehensive testing of all cows over 30 months of age announced by the eu.

The new test delivers the result within 24 hours and, according to researchers, is just as accurate as the "mouse bioassay"-test.

In other words, this new rapid test is just as limited in its informative value as its predecessor "mouse test" still relying on the general infectivity of mice, the new test can so far only confirm what is already known: the researchers only tested brain tie that was already known to be contaminated with bse – so whether it can also detect the disease in animals that had not yet shown any symptoms remains unclear. Very impractical for a systematic investigation.

According to the researchers "the test accuracy from as an alternative to the destruction of all animal carcasses, which after 30. Month slaughtered". But additional work is needed to make the test results more comparable with the diagnoses of previous bse tests.

The systematic testing of slaughtered cows over 30 months of age, or their complete removal from the food chain, is an important point in the package of measures to combat bse, which was presented to the european union on 1 january 2009.Submitted in january 2001. According to eu food safety commissioner david byrne, the "the absolute minimum necessary to restore consumer confidence". Since younger cattle already infected with bse have also been discovered, he also questions whether "the age limit of 30 months, which requires testing, should not be lowered". In this context, u.A. Also the testing that has hitherto been considered "safe" t-bone steaks are suspected to be bse. Byrne promises an answer to this question, which is "both responsibly and behaviorally" will fail before the end of the week.

Others are far less optimistic. During the opening of the green week in berlin last week, germany had to prepare for up to 500 bse traps this year. (16 cases were registered in 2000.)

While it is still unclear whether the cow killer can actually be dangerous to human health, after the latest resignation (ms. Stamm feels she is innocent and is resigning) it is certain that bse is at least extremely effective as a job killer.

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