CWD, Fear and Food

“Chronic Wasting Disease in North America.” By USGS, National Wildlife Health Center [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the mid-1980s a new disease, Bovine Spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) appeared in Britain. Better known as mad-cow disease, this disorder attacked the brain of first cattle, and later a small number of people who had consumed their meat. The most likely manner in which the disease was introduced into the food chain was through processing cattle into feed for other cattle. Only by converting cattle into unwitting cannibals -in order to  to take advantage of waste products from abbatoirs- was the prion that caused the disease introduced into humans. In Britain the images of quivering, drooling, staggering cattle on television unleashed a public panic. (1)

BSE was a classic example of an iatrogenic disease, which is an illness created by humanity itself. The disease is caused by a prion, which is not a living thing. Prions are strange. It’s believed that they are malformed proteins, which can trigger other proteins to similarly mis-form. This creates a terrible cascade that impacts the brain, thereby causing neurodegeneration. They are also incredibly resistant to heat, so they do not readily break down during cooking, which would eliminate the risk of most pathogens and helminths. Once a living organism such as a person is infected, there is no known treatment for the disease. …