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August 14, 1996

Views of Reason for Mad Cow Disease Vary Widely

JAMA. 1996;276(6):438-440. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540060014005

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EXCITEMENT caused by the epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) among British cattle, popularly known as "mad cow disease," has also stimulated renewed interest in a rare human neurodegenerative disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

The disorders are related, but whether the 10 cases of CJD recently reported in Great Britain were the result of eating meat from cows infected with the BSE agent remains speculation. "But," said a British authority, "it would be prudent to remain open-minded about dietary exposure" (Lancet. 1996;347:916,945-948). As always with mysterious disorders and unsolved riddles, public interest is high.

Two Capital Conferences  This interest brought 2 experts on CJD to separate forums this spring in Washington, DC. Stanley Prusiner, MD, professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, addressed a meeting on Capitol Hill of the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, a group that regularly briefs congressional staff on health issues. Prusiner