Last December mad cow disease made its U.S. debut
when federal officials announced that a holstein from Mabton, Wash., had been stricken with what is formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The news kept scientists, government officials, the cattle industry and the media scrambling for information well past New Year's. Yet the discovery of the sick animal came as no surprise to many of us who study mad cow disease and related fatal disorders that devastate the brain. The strange nature of the prion--the pathogen at the root of these conditions--made us realize long ago that controlling these illnesses and ensuring the safety of the food supply would be difficult.
This article was originally published with the title Detecting Mad Cow Disease.