Science, policy forum focuses on 'mad cow' and related diseases


Media advisory

(Blacksburg, Va.) -- More than 20 countries have confirmed cases of the always fatal, prion-caused "mad cow disease." In addition, approximately 143 people have died around the world from the always fatal, prion-caused variant Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease, which is primarily contracted by eating meat from infected "Mad Cows."

Twelve states, two Canadian provinces, and South Korea have reported another always fatal, prion-caused disease in deer and elk: chronic wasting disease (CWD).

These and other related diseases will be the focus of a Ceres® Forum, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies in Animal and Human Health: The Science and the Policy, on March 8-9 at the Marriot at Metro Center, Washington D. C.

The forum, organized and moderated by the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) at Virginia Tech, will feature scientific experts, top government regulators, involved policymakers, trade association representatives, industry leaders, plus other public and private stakeholders. Forum participants will discuss and compare current policies with the existing science of infectious prions, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease" in cattle), variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD in people who are exposed to the infectious agent that causes BSE), and chronic wasting disease (CWD in deer and elk).

George M. Gray, Executive Director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at Harvard University and one of the Forum's key speakers, says, "This conference brings together BSE science and policy at a key time, as we consider U.S. responses to our first case of mad cow disease."

"The current situations with mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease are becoming more complex with time. Both have negative economic consequences in the United States and elsewhere," says Sharron Quisenberry, dean of Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Maureen L. Storey, director of the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, adds, "We need today's best science to develop policies that limit our potential human and economic losses from TSEs. We must also develop risk management strategies to protect public health and our agricultural economy - especially from BSE and CWD."

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) are a group of always fatal, neurodegenerative diseases affecting people, non-human primates, cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk, and other wild ruminants. There are no effective treatments or vaccines. In the past 40 years, the disease scrapie (caused by prions in sheep) is believed to have "jumped" species to cattle, people, deer, and elk.

In addition to Gray, the two-day Ceres® Forum will feature such prominent speakers as Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, and Neil R. Cashman from the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto and Caprion Pharmaceuticals.

"Our long-term goal is to minimize losses to prion diseases until scientists can thoroughly understand and effectively control them," says Storey.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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