July 4, 1997 COLLEGE STATION -- No signs of "mad cow disease" have been found in Texas by the state's only laboratory which handles bovine autopsies, the laboratory's director said.
"All the work we have done indicates there have been no cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or 'mad cow disease,' in Texas," said Dr. Konrad Eugster, executive director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory.
As part of its work and at the request of ranchers and veterinarians, the laboratory handles autopsies on any Texas cattle whose cause of death is uncertain. Brain lesions characteristic of BSE would be readily noted and the brains sent on to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, a unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for tests that confirm the presence of BSE.
"The lesions are characteristic enough that any pathologist would at least suspect BSE, and we have not seen these lesions," Eugster said. "We look at every bovine brain, an average of 450 to 500 a year, even if we are already certain of others causes of death."
The laboratory has tracked information for the USDA on bovine brain specimens both examined and sent on for further analysis. Between the 1990-91 and 1994-95 fiscal years, the lab examined 2,354 brains, an average of 471 per year, and none had to be sent on to the USDA.
Those figures are consistent with both previous years and current figures, Eugster said.
"That would be some 5,000 brains in the last 10 years, and I am certain that we have not found any lesions during that time," said Eugster, who has directed the laboratory since 1980 and has been employed there since 1970. "That should be a statistically significant sample."
BSE is one of a category of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalophathies, of which Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the human form. Researchers suspect cases of BSE in England may be related to a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease identified in England, although the links have not been confirmed.
Recent news articles have reported incidences of Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease in East Texas. In response, the Texas Department of Health last week issued a statement saying no evidence of BSE in cattle or the new variant of Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans has been found in the United States.
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is usually found in levels of approximately one case per million people in the United States, but the new variant has been found only in England and France.
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