Four animals in Norway may have mad cow disease, in addition to two confirmed infections. Reindeer in Norway also are contracting prion disease, known as chronic wasting disease. These sick animals are actually just symptoms of a much bigger problem that is already striking humans. Although there are many pathways for prion disease, many of these animals were first sickened by infectious waste from humans.
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or TSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, is a fatal neurodegenerative disease (encephalopathy) in cattle that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord.
In addition to consuming prions in meat and milk, prions migrate through contaminated soil and surface water runoff as a result of contaminated bodily fluids in its victims. Containment is impossible. The land disposal of infectious sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, is contributing to the problem.
In order to understand the threat, one must understand the dynamics of this neurological disease. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, is a member of an aggressive family of neurodegenerative diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.”
TSEs are caused by a deadly protein called a prion (PREE-on). As such, TSEs also are referred to as prion disease. The critical factor is that prions are unstoppable. The pathogen spreads through the bodily fluids and cell tissue of its victims. Prions are in the blood, saliva, urine, feces, mucus, and bodily tissue of its victims. All tissue is infectious just because of the contact with the contaminated blood. When prions are released from victims into the wastewater treatment system, the prions migrate, mutate and multiply.
TSEs also include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in the deer family. Few, if any, mammals are immune. There is no cure.
Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs all are on the same disease spectrum, which is more accurately described as prion disease. He claims that all TSEs are caused by prions.