Mad cow disease came from humans suggests new theory
September 6, 2005
Mad cow disease may have originated from human remains mixed into cattle feed, according to a controversial new theory.
Human Origin of AIDS as well?
The real origin of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is not an experiment gone awry or a Western conspiracy against Africans, but a virus from the rainforest of West or Central Africa.
AIDS is actually not a single disease but a collection of infections and malignancies that occur as a result of infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV weakens the immune system by destroying lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that wards off infection.
There are three known HIV viruses (HIV-0, HIV-1, HIV-2), all which are classified as retroviruses of the lentivirus family. These viruses are descended from simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) present in monkeys and apes. Presently it is still unclear how HIV-1 (the virus that most menaces man) made the species jump from SIV-infected chimpanzees to humans. One theory, presented in The River by Edward Hooper, is that the SIV contamination of polio vaccines administered during widespread immunization campaigns in Central Africa during the late 1950s was responsible for the transfer.
Over those decades Britain imported hundreds of thousands of tons of ground-up animal parts for use as fertiliser and the manufacture of feed.
Nearly half this meat-and-bone meal came from the Indian sub-continent.
Professor Alan Colchester, from the University of Kent in Canterbury, argues that some of it almost certainly contained human as well as animal remains.
The human material could be traced to corpses disposed of in rivers in accordance with Hindu funeral custom.
Collecting and selling bones and carcasses is a common local trade among peasants, who may not be too selective about what kind of remains they pick up, says Prof Colchester.
"The inclusion of human remains in material delivered to processing mills has been clearly described," he wrote in The Lancet medical journal in a paper co-authored by his daughter, Nancy Colchester, from the University of Edinburgh.
Kuru, a disease resulting from the consumption of human brains
The ingestion of brain matter can produce a fatal disease known as Kuru. Kuru (also known as laughing sickness due to the outbursts of laughter that mark its second phase) was first noted in New Guinea in the early 1900s. By the 1950s, anthropologists and Australian government officials reported that kuru was rampant among the South Fore, a group of individuals that practiced ritual cannibalism. The kuru epidemic reached its height in the 1960s. Between 1957 and 1968, over 1,100 of the South Fore died from kuru. The vast majority of victims among the South Fore were women, who traditionally fed on human brains during ceremonial practices.
In humans, kuru had an incubation period with a minimum of two years and maximum of twenty-three.
Kuru is now known to be a prion disease, one of several known transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.
Prions — short for proteinaceous infectious particle — are infectious self-reproducing protein structures. Though their exact mechanisms of action and reproduction are unknown, it is now commonly accepted that prions are responsible for a number of previously known but little-understood diseases generally classified under transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases (TSEs), including scrapie (a disease of sheep), kuru (found in members of the cannibalistic Foré tribe in Papua New Guinea), Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), Chronic Wasting Disease, Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI), Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS), and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) (Collinge, 2001). These diseases affect the structure of brain tissue and are all fatal and untreatable.
It emerged in the cow population as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE. Later, the infective agent was transmitted back to humans consuming meat products such as beef-burgers. In 1995 it re-emerged in a new form as "variant" or vCJD, a deadly and incurable brain disease.
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