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Blood test detects "mad cow" disease in hamsters.

Blood test detects "mad cow" disease in hamsters. Three scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston have found a way to detect abnormal prion protein in blood samples from hamsters. If the test proves effective in cattle and humans, it could help determine the prevalence of the disease in the United States. "Mad cow" and related prion diseases are currently diagnosed only through the examination of brain tissue after death. Writing in Nature Medicine, Claudio Soto, Joaquin Castilla, and Paula Saa report that they have devised a way to stimulate a tiny, undetectable amount of abnormal prion protein in a blood sample to multiply so that it reaches detectable levels: "Our findings represent the first time that prions have been biochemically detected in blood."

At the end of August, Steve Sundlof, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, announced that the federal government was closing its investigation into the nation's first case of domestic "mad cow" disease. Investigators could not pin down how a Texas cow was infected and did not identify a specific food source as the likely cause of the animal's infection. According to Sundlof, the cow, which tested positive in June, likely ate contaminated food before the United States banned ground-up cattle remains in cattle feed in 1997.
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Title Annotation:Infectious disease
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:216
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