Scientists find low level transmission of BSE

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 10 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:317

Maternal transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) does occur at low levels, according to preliminary results of research carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Researchers from the epidemiology department at the central veterinary laboratory in Weybridge found that the risk of maternal transmission of BSE from cow to calf in their study was 10%. They say that outside of study conditions this would mean that 1% of calves born to cows which die of BSE will themselves die of BSE caught from their mothers.

Final results of the study, which started in 1989, are not due until the end of the year, but the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) decided to break the code early and release the data. The committee decided, however, that no further action was needed to protect public health as Britain's eradication plan for BSE already recognised that maternal transmission was a possibility.

The results have received a mixed reaction from the scientific community and stirred up once again the controversial issue of maternal transmission of encephalopathies in any animal. Kenton Morgan, professor of epidemiology at Liverpool University's faculty of veterinary …

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