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Animal Disease and Human Health Risk

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Other Prion Diseases

Although our focus in discussing prion diseases is the possibility of CJD, other less frightening diseases are beginning to emerge as possibly resulting from prions transmitted to humans from animals. One such disease is a disease that significantly decreases the quality of life, called Paget's disease. Paget's disease of the bone disrupts the process of bone formation, causing them to weaken, thicken, and become deformed. Bones usually affected include the pelvis, collarbone, skull, spine, and long bones of the leg. Chronic pain in the bones may result. Overall, the disease strikes up to three percent of the U.S. population over age 40, but the rate increases with age.

Recent evidence points to a possible different prion as the cause of this disease, again being transmitted from animals. Risk factors for developing the disease include eating brain or other organ meats (2 times greater risk), eating meat traceable to sick livestock (2.7 times greater risk), and handling cattle through farming or cattle breeding (2 times greater risk).63 Regular contact with dogs or cats may also increase the risk in certain geographic areas.

What Should We Do?

The Consumers' Association, an independent British "watchdog group," has been quoted as saying that the only way to avoid BSE risk would be to stop eating beef altogether. This concurs with the recommendation of the esteemed BSE researcher and Professor of Microbiology at Leeds University, Dr. Richard Lacey. His simple answer to the problem is stated in Figure 12: Eating Meat Should be Avoided.64

Many people in Great Britain have taken his advice to heart. At this writing, 47 percent of homes do not purchase beef in the United Kingdom.65

Others are saying even more. Some are suggesting that the time has come to recognize that disease in animals has become so rampant worldwide that we all need to seriously consider becoming vegetarians. They point out that BSE is just one of many fatal diseases linked to animals. Literally hundreds of deaths have been documented in the U.S. alone from a host of animal-related infections. Some of the most significant causative agents may not yet be household words; however, most will recognize at least one of them, as listed in Figure 13: Other Disease Causing Agents in Meat and Meat Products .

Adding to all of the foregoing, we cannot forget that the risk of dying prematurely from the Western World's two leading killers, cancer and heart disease, rises with increasing consumption of animal products.

Worse Than AIDS?

With conservative estimates of some two million BSE-infected cattle being eaten, there is the potential for a large-scale worldwide epidemic that could rival AIDS regarding the number of people touched. We really will not know until about the year 2000 if the epidemic that occurred in cows will touch on a similar scale (in the thousands) in humans.66 However, CJD appears from many perspectives to be even worse than AIDS. With HIV we can diagnose the infection at a very early state. At that point, pharmacologic or other therapies can be instituted to try to prevent the progression of the infection to AIDS. Even when AIDS strikes, treatment options are available. In the case of CJD, however, there is no ability for early detection and no treatments at any stage of the disease. It is a frightening disease that generally strikes quickly, causes symptoms and incapacitation often far worse than AIDS, and progresses inexorably to cause death.

63 Lopez-Abente G, Morales-Piga A, et al. Cattle, pets, and Paget's disease of bone. Epidemiology 1997 May;8(3):247-251.

64 Lacey RW. "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, MAFF World." The Vegetarian (published by The Vegetarian Society UK) Autumn 1993.

65 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (MAFF), United Kingdom (UK): BSE: 12-month summary of developments. Updated to Feb. 28, 1997.

66 Cousens SN, Vynnycky E, et al. Predicting the CJD epidemic in humans. Nature 1997 Jan 16;385(6613):197-198.

Notice of Credit
The article above is compliments of the Uchee Pines Institute, Seale, Alabama, a teaching and treatment facility devoted to natural remedies. For mor information, call 334-855-4781,e-mail:, or visit their Website:

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