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.
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