Bse can be transmitted to humans. Then she triggers the new variant of creutzfeldt-jakob disease.


The BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, mad cow disease) is one of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). It affects cattle, but can also be transmitted to humans. Then she triggers the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJK). Read all important information about BSE here.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in doctor's letters or on incapacity certificates. A81

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  • BSE: facts and figures

  • BSE: Symptoms of sick animals

  • BSE: transmission to humans

BSE: facts and figures

Due to the BSE scandal in the mid-1990s, the well-known as mad cow disease disease was widely known. Especially in the UK, cattle were affected by the disease that first appeared in the 1980s. The epidemic spread almost across the continent and reached its peak in 1995. Since then, over 180,000 cattle have been diagnosed in the United Kingdom, and in Germany more than 400 animals have been diagnosed with BSE.

BSE: development of the disease

The exact mechanism of bovine spongiform encephalopathy is not fully understood. Scientists suspect as the cause especially animal flours, which were used in the cattle fattening. Animal meal is made from carcasses of dead animals, including dead sheep. In the United Kingdom, the sheep disease "scrapie" has been known for over 200 years and is also one of the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. It is thought that some sick sheep were used to produce meat and bone meal and thus the cattle were infected with BSE agents (prions). The disease spread through the export of meat-and-bone meal to mainland Europe.

The prohibition of feeding animal meal in 2000 was able to contain the epidemic. In addition, a BSE test was introduced in Germany from November 2000 and all healthy slaughtered cattle tested for mad cow disease from the age of 30 months. Since 2015, these examinations are no longer mandatory.

BSE: new pathogens

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, like other transmissible spongy brain diseases, is caused by prions. These are misfolded proteins that are mainly deposited in nerve cells and thus damage the brain.

The BSE agents are also considered so dangerous because they can easily skip the so-called species barrier and infest both animal and human.

BSE: Symptoms of sick animals

Cattle suffering from mad cow disease are between four and six years old on average. They show changes in their behavior and behavior and are extremely anxious and aggressive. Many suffer from movement disorders, fall to the ground and are very sensitive to noise, light or touch. After about six months the sick animals die. There is no treatment option so far.

BSE: transmission to humans

BSE can be transmitted to humans and then triggers the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). With BSE, people can be infected by contaminated cattle products. The brain and spinal cord in particular contain the pathogens of vCJD. But they can also occur in the spleen or intestine. Milk and dairy products are considered BSE-free.

In total, 229 people worldwide died as a result of BSE until June 2014. Most of them lived in the UK. In Germany so far no case of illness is known. The new diseases and deaths have decreased in recent years. About the exact number of other new cases can be difficult to make statements, since the incubation period of the vCJD - ie the time from infection to the onset of the disease - is not known.

BSE: That's how people protect themselves

In order to prevent the spread of the disease, further precautionary measures were taken in addition to the animal meal ban and the BSE test. For example, people who were in the UK for more than six months between 1980 and 1996 are not allowed to donate blood. In addition, diseased animals are killed and their carcasses destroyed. Also, the import to Germany of BSE-infected animals is prohibited.

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