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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Detecting Mad Cow Disease by a look in the eye

Mad Cow Disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a fatal disease that can infect humans who consume beef. For this reason, it’s critical to identify the cows that suffer from this disease before they are sent to market. So far, Jacob Petrich and his colleagues from Iowa State and the University of Pittsburgh have found a test that seems to work in sheep.

The researchers used fluorescence spectroscopy to examine the eyes of sheep suffering from a similar transmissible spongiform encephalopathy known as ‘scrapie’. The infected sheep’s eyes emitted a specific glow that was not visible in uninfected sheep retinas. This quick, noninvasive test would be of tremendous use to the meat industry, especially if it also works in cattle. The meat supply would be that much safer for all of us.

Photo by George Gastin, April 23, 2009.