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October 2001
Vol. 31, No. 10, p 5.

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Debra A. Schwartz

First funding for U.S. research into bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) expected for 2002

This month, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA–ARS) expects to receive the first $5 million appropriated for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) research in this country. Funding for the BSE research will go to the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, IA; the Blood-Borne Diseases Research Lab in Pullman, WA; and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the coast of Long Island, NY; all associated with the USDA–ARS.

The $5 million will fund “just the beginning of what we think will be a bigger understanding of what this global disease is,” said Floyd Horn, administrator of the USDA–ARS. “There is strict agreement on how that money would be spent ... . The only restriction is that we not work with infectious material here.” Research involving protein and biochemistry will be done in the United States if the agents are deactivated, but abroad if in their active state, according to Horn.

BSE is caused by cannibalistic practices, such as feeding swill containing cattle parts to other cattle. BSE has been linked to the fatal Creuztfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD), a rare degenerative disease almost always associated with humans over age 50 that causes small holes to form in brain tissue. Researchers and medical professionals became alarmed when cases of CJD were confirmed in people in their 20s and 30s, which led to the discovery that a new variant of the disease occurs in people who have consumed beef infected with BSE.

Debra A. Schwartz is a freelance writer and editor in the Washington, DC, area (debinmld@aol.com). In the December 2001 issue of Chemical Innovation, she will discuss new developments in BSE research in a feature article. —Ed.

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