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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

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Exp 50 years

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Article Home Adult and Senior Health Mad cow disease

Mad cow disease

Mad cow disease is an infectious disease in the brain of the cattle. Humans get infected usually by eating tissue from the diseased cattle. The scientific name of mad cow disease in cattle is called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (meaning sick brain).


The human form of mad cow disease is known as variant Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease or new variant creutzfeldt jakob disease.

Causes of mad cow disease

  • Some forms are inherited such as familial CJD, Gerstmann- Straussler Scheinker disease, fatal familial insomnia.
  • Prion disease may develop sporadically without apparent reason
  • Prion disease can be introduced into a human through infected surgical instruments or transplant tissues.


Signs and symptoms 


  • Change in the attitude and behavior
  • Gradual uncoordinated movements
  • Trouble standing and walking
  • Weight loss despite having appetite
  • Decreased milk production 


Similar symptoms may develop in humans 


  • Muscle spasms
  • Lack of muscle control
  • Worsening problems with memory
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal and anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping


  Tests and diagnosis

  • Complete blood count
  • Thyroid profile
  • B12 and folate assay
  • Screening for syphilis and HIV
  • MRI and PET scan
  • EEG
  • Spinal tap and fluid examination
  • Brain biopsy




There is no current effective treatment available. Patients infected with the disease may not recover from the disease indefinitely.

Clonazepam and sodium valproate are used to stop involuntary jerks and to sooth the patients.


  • Eat poultry and fish, or choose a vegetarian diet.
  • Avoid beef products that may contain bits of spinal cord or brain tissue.
  • Milk and milk products are not thought to be affected

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