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Lancet: BSE origin linked to human remains in feed
Indiana Correspondent

LONDON, England — A theory on the origins of Mad Cow disease, released by University of Kent Professor Alan Colchester, is as intriguing as it may be disgusting.

According to this report, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), may have been caused in cattle because the animals ate the remains of humans infected with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

In the Lancet, a well-known European medical journal, Colchester, along with his daughter Nancy of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said BSE could have resulted from the practice of importing animal bones and other tissues from India and Pakistan during the 1960s and 1970s. These tons of bones were ground for animal feed.

Apparently, it has been common practice in these countries to gather large carcasses (mammal and human) from the rivers and use them to trade with.

The Colchester’s believe this practice of importing the crushed bones, though ceased in England, could still be used elsewhere and it is important to know if byproducts used in animal feed could be infected with human remains.

This theory is based upon serious circumstantial evidence. In the report, the authors note, “We do not claim that our theory is proved, but it unquestionably warrants further investigation.” This theory would reverse the commonly held belief that people became ill with the human form of the brain-wasting disease now called variant CJD (or vCJD) because they ate beef from bovine ill with BSE.

It also disputes the theory that cattle developed BSE from eating the remains of sheep infected with scrapie (scrapie is the form of this type of disease found in sheep) when those remains were ground and added to feed for beef animals.

The Colchester’s scenario discusses the possibility that cattle do not eventually derive this disease from sheep, but from human remains of people with vCJD ground into hundreds of tons of feed. Then, those cattle remains were ground and added to more feed for cattle. Thus more and more animals were infected finally leading to the “outbreak” of BSE identified in Britain in 1986.

The Colchester’s dispute the claim that BSE came from scrapie because they believe it would have been present in bovine long before it was discovered as the practice of feeding cattle the remains of sheep is more than 70 years old.

Some Canadian scientists are also responding to this theory, saying it is plausible given the religious customs in the Indian subcontinent of burning corpses and then throwing them into the river. Dr. Neil Cashman of the University of British Columbia agreed that the theory merited more research. “In general (the carcasses gathered) are animal carcasses, but human remains find their way into these rendering batches.”

This farm news was published in the March 15, 2006 issue of Farm World.