How the Cows Turned Mad

How the Cows Turned Mad

How the Cows Turned Mad

How the Cows Turned Mad


A gripping biological detective story that traces the history of mad cow disease and related infectious brain diseases of livestock and people. The book also illustrates dramatically how scientific progress unfolds as researchers in various countries pursue new ideas and leads in order to identify the cause of and relationship between these enigmatic diseases.


Thus, we see infection in a new light which cannot fail to be a cause of concern for humankind—unless, in the course of its evolution over the centuries, nature has already come upon every opportunity to produce infectious or contagious diseases, which is highly unlikely.

Louis Pasteur, 1881

There shall be new diseases. That is an inevitable fact. Another fact, no less inevitable, is that we will never be able to detect them from the outset. By the time we have some idea of those diseases, they will already be fully formed—in their adulthood, so to speak. They will appear like Athena, springing fully armed from the forehead of Zeus. Charles Nicolle, director of the Institut Pasteur of Tunis and winner of the

1928 Nobel Prize for medicine,

UNKNOWN TO THE public at large until recently, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is now the subject of daily media attention, especially in western Europe. What exactly is this disease that seems to pose a threat to us all? What is the meaning of terms we hear, such as “sporadic, ” “inherited, ” “iatrogenic, ” and “new variant”? What is CJD's relationship to “mad cow disease”—bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)and to the sheep disease known as scrapie? If it can be transmitted from cattle to humans, why not from sheep to humans? As an infectious disease, can it be transmitted from human to human? What is the . . .

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