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BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management

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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 the public thinks about and experiences science and scientists. All of which is touched upon in in this free course, BSE and vCJD: their biology and management.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the way that prion molecules cause diseases such as BSE and vCJD, and how the key discoveries about prions were made
  • demonstrate knowledge of 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)
  • demonstrate knowledge of 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.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 15 hours
  • Updated Monday 21st March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Biology
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BSE and vCJD: Their biology and management

Introduction

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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 course: 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 OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course S250 Science in context [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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