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BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management
The furore surrounding the so-called ‘mad cow’ diseases is an important and...
The furore surrounding the so-called ‘mad cow’ diseases is an important and controversial episode of recent years. Although it peaked several years ago, the topic is still of great medical significance, influencing the way members of the public think about and experience science and scientists.
After studying this unit you will know more about:
- the way that prion molecules cause diseases such as BSE and vCJD, and how the key discoveries about prions were made;
- the patterns of BSE and vCJD in populations, and how this information is used to predict the number of cases there may be in future (and to assess the accuracy and precision of such predictions);
- how science can make important contributions to managing episodes such as BSE/vCJD, and how important insights are gained from disciplines outside the natural sciences and also members of the general public, including farmers and consumers of beef-related products.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Introduction
- 2 The biology of prions
- 3 The origin and spread of BSE
- 4 The emergence of vCJD
- 5 The epidemiology of vCJD
- 6 Is prion-like behaviour exceptional or the norm?
- 7 Managing the BSE/vCJD episode: an overview
- 8 Managing the BSE/vCJD episode up to May 1990
- 9 Managing the BSE/vCJD episode from May 1990 to March 1996
- 10 Managing the BSE/vCJD episode from March 1996
- 11 The official inquiries
- 12 The international dimension
- 13 Unit summary
- 14 Unit questions and answers
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BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management
The Open University course S250 Science in context looks at a range of science-based topics of current or recent importance to public debates about science. It does this by examining the scientific facts and concepts that underpin such areas as genetic modification, medicinal plants and climate change, and in doing so aims to forefront a number of themes that we feel are of value in gaining greater insight into these types of controversies. At the points in the text where one or more of these themes is most apparent, we will indicate them as follows:
C – Communication
R – Risk
E – Ethical issues
D – Decision making.
Having introduced the four themes, we now turn our attention to the topics of this unit: BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a cattle disease) and vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, in humans). These two diseases are treated together in order to emphasise the similarity of the underlying science and because the first is believed to have given rise to the second.
This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Thursday, 9th December 2010
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