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Mad Cow Disease Can Be Detected Through the Eyes of the Cattle

Bovine with Mad cow disease. Note the inabiltiy of the infected animal to stand. Image source: USDA.


By looking through the eyes of the cattle, one can possibly detect if a bovine animal has a mad cow disease. This is according to a team of scientists. The eyes are not only the window of the soul. They may also serve as indicators that can be used to detect if the animal could be suffering from a prion disease. 

The eyes of the cattle may tell which ones have prion infections. Prions are the agents of Mad Cow Disease. The eye test that is being developed for this purpose may fill up the need for a test, which can be done with ease and not too costly. By looking through the eyes of the animal and using a special instrument emitting a beam of light, one can identify which bovines are infected with prions. Studies already established that prion infection causes chemical changes in the retina, the innermost light-sensitive membrane of the eye. As a result, the retina renders a characteristic glow, and this could be used to identify infection with the Mad Cow disease agent. This test already proved useful in identifying scrapie in sheep.

The eye test would be useful to identify prion infection in bovine. Early detection could prevent the disease from dispersing in the food chain. Jacod Petrich and colleagues contend that certain human disease resembling Mad Cow Disease may be associated with the consumption of beef infected with prions. Developing a test that can be easily applied and not too costly can be truly essential.


~ Aadapted by Vicki Mozo from a press release of United States Department of Agriculture-Research, Education, and Economics entitled "Eyes of cattle may become new windows to detect Mad Cow Disease" on June 2, 2010.


For definitions, see:

* Prion

* Mad cow disease

* Bovine

* Cattle

* Diagnosis


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