Monday, March 27, 2006

Scientists still flogging a dead cow

Apparently, we are still all doomed to die a frothing death from Mad Cow Disease...
THOUSANDS of people in Britain may be infected with variant CJD, the human equivalent of mad cow disease, without knowing it, research suggests.
...

It could make it much harder to eliminate the human infection, even though cattle no longer carry it. Potentially it could linger for generations, or for ever.

In other words, they haven't actually got a fucking clue.
The team behind the research suggested that their finding represented a “significant public health issue”.

I think what you meant to say was that the team behind the research hoped that their finding represented a “significant public health issue” because then they would get more funding. I hear the sound of enpty wallets over at the vCJD labs...
Independent experts said that the work highlighted the need for a national autopsy programme for people who died of causes other than vCJD, to determine the extent of latent infection among those with no symptoms.

An autopsy of how many, exactly? I mean, are you going to conduct an autopsy of every single fucking person that has died since the late 80s? Or will you just pick a sample? And are we sure that these "independent experts" aren't suffering from Mad Cow Disease themselves?
So far, 161 cases of vCJD have been reported in Britain, 18 in France, and 12 in other parts of the world. These figures are much lower than some early estimates suggested, but the new data indicate that complacency is unjustified.

Yeah, as I recall, some scientists were promising the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Yeah, I would say that 161 was "much lower than some early estimates suggested"; so, can we leave it now?
Up to 14,000 people may be carrying the rogue prion proteins that cause the disease without symptoms, the study indicates. Many scientists believe most of these will die of other causes before developing vCJD, but the length of the incubation period remains uncertain and it is possible they could account for a “second wave” of deaths from the disease.

Look, can we get this straight: the scientists have never found the transmitting vector for vCJD. They have never actually proved the transmission path from infected cows. They have never proved that eating meat from infected cows actually caused so-called vCJD. In fact, there has been little proof that vCJD is, in fact, anything other than bog-standard, ordinary CJD. They also, actually, know fuck all about prions too.
Although the identity and general properties of prions are now well-understood, the mechanism of prion infection and propagation remains mysterious.
...

Though the exact mechanisms of their actions and propagation are unknown, it is now commonly accepted that prions are responsible for a number of previously known but little-understood diseases classified as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies(TSEs).

Well, not exactly. It is now accepted that prions are usually to be found in those who have died of TSEs, but whether they are the result of another vector or whether they are the vector is merely postulated and is, actually, unknown.

However, if they do work as hypothesised, i.e. by causing a cascading chain reaction in normal cell proteins, it is difficult to see how this mechanism can be delayed. These are not organisms—such as meningitis or herpes, both of which hide in the central nervous system to avoid the body's defenses—but simple protein strands. Which may or may not be a transmission vector.

Still, never mind: the scientists say that we are all going to die and—despite them being consistently wrong time and time again—the papers are going to report it as such. On you go, my friends, for tomorrow you may all be frothing loons, unable to stand up straight. Mind you, with all of this and journalists' famous penchant for drink, how will anyone tell the difference...?

UPDATE: welcome to readers of my excellent partner-in-rage: Danerously Subversive Dad.

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