Dr. Colm A. Kelleher
5.0 out of 5 stars As a neurologist, I found it frightening, November 21, 2004
As a trained neurologist working at a school of medicine, I thought I had a fairly good understanding of BSE and its human counterpart, nvCJD. But clinical knowledge is only one piece of the puzzle.
Drawing upon epidemiologic, forensic, political, medical, scientific, and historical sources, the author has provided a truly chilling account of the importation of prion disease samples from the small cannabalistic Fore tribe in New Guinea for U.S. animal experimentation in the 1950’s and ’60’s, with credible links to the current epidemic of animal prion disease in North America (CWD or chronic wasting disease, TME or transmissible mink encephalopathy, and BSE), as well as the current epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease in developed countries (i.e., those eating mass-produced livestock). The author also speculates that the cattle mutiliations in North America in the past few decades may have been programs designed for the surveillance of prions within the nation’s food supply.
Some disturbing points made in the book are:
1) 5 – 13% of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) cases that go to autopsy at university medical centers is actually misdiagnosed sporadic CJD (ref: Manuelidis, J. Pathology 1989), alarming since AD is so common and on the rise.
2) BSE, when transmitted to mice, cause neuropathological findings of nvCJD, but surprisingly, may also cause changes indistinguishable from sporadic CJD (ref: Collinge, EMBO Journal 2002 & Science 11/04)… in combination with the above, the implication is that a significant proportion of clinical AD may be due to BSE.
3) CWD (chronic wasting disease), a prion disease of wild animals such as deer and elk, has been spreading rapidly within the past few decades in North America.
4) If infected animals graze on a pasture, that pasture remains infectious to new animals for years… meaning that the disease will be difficult to contain, to say the least.
5) The “species barrier” is weaker than it sounds, i.e., most mammals and birds can contract it from each other.
Working in a complex medical system, it’s all too familiar to me the fact that families do not pursue post-mortems, diagnoses are not considered, and tests are never 100% reliable. The extra pecautions and higher risk are hindrances to autopsying a patient clinically diagnosed with CJD. Knowing the foibles of human nature, it is almost certain that enormous economic incentives for cattle ranchers and various government agencies have contributed to underreporting and underestimation the potential severity of the problem… which is a shame given that we have the benefit of having observed the same public health fiasco in the UK.
It is common dogma that sporadic CJD is not related to nvCJD or BSE, but that statement may be mistaken in light of more current research such as the type cited in the book. I hope that if awareness is promoted via reading this book, suspicion and surveillance for the disease among veterinarians and physicians will increase, and a more accurate picture of the situation will be revealed.
As for the book itself, it appears well-researched with references appearing in a detailed appendix. The strength of the work is how the seamless argument is woven together in a highly readable fashion, making it accessible to all. It reads like a first-rate thriller and is hard to put down. I read it in two sittings over a weekend.