October 16, 2003
BSE Cases Detected At Italy Similar to Japan's
Two cows in Italy that were found to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, were previously infected with abnormal prions in last year. The protein molecules are believed to have caused the disease, similar in structure to the ones found recently in a cow in Ibaraki Prefecture in the nation's eighth BSE case, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported last Saturday.
The finding was revealed by an Italian researcher at an international conference on prion-caused disease held recently in Germany.
The Ibaraki cow was described as suffering from an atypical case of mad cow disease, as it was infected with prions structured differently from those of BSE cases discovered so far, either in Japan or elsewhere, leading to fear that there could be an unknown source of BSE infection in the nation.
Japanese experts expressed hope that they could narrow down possible sources of infection through joint research with Italian experts.
According to Tokyo University Prof. Takashi Onodera, who attended the conference, the two infected Italian cows were 11 and 12 years old.
The results of BSE tests that checked the prions' structure and the locations of prions concentrated within the cows' brains showed that the prions were clearly different from those of "typical" cases of BSE previously found, the Italian researcher was cited as saying at the conference. The researcher also said there could be undiscovered cases of BSE within Italy.
Prof. Onodera and a team of Italian researchers compared data and agreed that it was highly likely that the latest case found in Japan and the two cows found last year in Italy had the same type of BSE.
After reporting the latest findings to a BSE study panel in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, Prof. Onodera plans to proceed with a joint study with the Italian experts on infectivity and pathogenicity of the three cases to try to identify the route of infection.
Last month, the ministry panel said it was highly possible that the source of infection in the previous seven cases was feed mixed with meat-and-bone meal (MBM) produced from cows imported from Britain, or MBM imported from Italy in the 1980s.
It might be possible too that Japan's eighth case of BSE stemmed from feed mixed with MBM produced from cows imported from Italy.