Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers develop faster, more accurate test for mad cow disease


As U.S. consumers seek reassurance that their hamburgers and steaks are free of deadly mad cow disease, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco say they may have found a promising solution. They’ve developed a faster, more reliable test for identifying the disease, possibly even in living cows. Current tests can only detect the disease after the cow dies.

The test was described today at the 226th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.

Critics argue that the standard immunoassay tests used to identify the infectious prion proteins that cause mad cow disease are inadequate for large scale screening of cattle. The tests can produce false readings and may take a week to yield results. A better test is needed, they say.

The new test, which has already undergone animal studies, seems to fit the bill. Called the conformation-dependent immunoassay (CDI), it can detect prion proteins with 100 percent accuracy at much smaller levels than conventional tests and only takes about five hours to produce results, according to the UCSF researchers.

Like conventional tests, the new test is designed for detecting prions in the brain tissue of cows only upon autopsy. Unlike other tests, however, the new test also shows promise for detecting the proteins in muscle tissue and even blood while the animal is still alive. If so, it could be used to identify precisely which animals are infected before they show symptoms and could help end the current practice of slaughtering whole herds, the scientists say.

"This represents a new generation of prion tests," says project leader Dr. Jiri G. Safar, M.D., an associate adjunct professor at UCSF. "It is the most promising test to date for accurately detecting prion proteins," says Safar, a member of the school’s Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases.

He says the test has been used in a field trial to check for signs of the disease in the brains of 11,000 slaughtered cows in Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany. Results were compared to those from standard immunoassays performed on the same animals. There were no discrepancies between the tests, he says.

"We had a perfect score. There were no false positives and no false negatives," says Safar. "We can’t afford incorrect conclusions, and we didn’t see that in our tests."

He says that the research group plans to use the test on an even larger scale among European cattle herds within the next year, checking them for signs of the disease upon autopsy. If further tests prove successful, he hopes it will eventually be used to evaluate dead cows in this country for mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephelopathy, or BSE.

Despite the fact that the CDI test is currently being done in dead cattle, Safar says the same test could eventually be used on live animals to determine the presence of prions. In lab tests, the researcher has used the CDI test to detect prions in the muscles of living mice.

The live test could eventually be used to screen patients for the human form of mad cow disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is thought to be acquired from eating infected beef. A tissue or blood test for live animals could be available in a year, says Safar. "We’re not quite there yet," he adds. "We still need to validate the effectiveness of CDI in live farm animals."

CDI has other advantages. It is automated, allowing larger numbers of animals to be screened in a short period. The test can detect up to eight different strains of prions, including those that cause scrapie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in deer.

With the recent detection of mad cow disease in neighboring Canada and the temporary ban on beef imported from that country, critics have stepped up their call for better testing. To date, there has never been a case of mad cow disease detected in the U.S. Given the flaws of current testing, however, some experts believe it could be just a matter of time.

Safar’s coauthor in this study is Dr. Stanley Prusiner, M.D., a professor of neurology and biochemistry at the university and director of its Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Prusiner was the first to discover that abnormal prion proteins can cause disease, an accomplishment that won him the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

CDI technology is now licensed to InPro Biotechnology, Inc., of San Francisco, a company founded by Prusiner.

Funding for this study was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and private sources.

The paper on this research, ANYL 12, will be presented at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7, at the Javits Convention Center, Room 1A01/1A02, during the "Diagnostic Assays for Prion Diseases" symposium.

Jiri G. Safar, M.D., is an associate adjunct professor at the University of California-San Francisco and a member of the school’s Institute of Neurodegenerative Disorders.

Stanley B. Prusiner, M.D., is a professor of neurology and biochemistry at UCSF and director of its Institute for Neurodegenerative Diseases. He is the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht “How trees coexist” – new findings from biodiversity research published in Nature Communications
21.03.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden

nachricht Earlier flowering of modern winter wheat cultivars
20.03.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>