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BSE and CJD - two sides of the same coin?

from EVU News, Issue 2 / 1996

Lecture by Walter Schimdt (pictured), held at the Congress Day in Lindau, Germany, March 2nd 1996 [image: Dr.Schmidt]

Ladies and gentlemen,

It's getting more and more difficult to find your way through the forest of abbreviations, no matter whether they are related to technical or medical problems.

For a long time, such an abbreviation has been worrying all meat-consumers: BSE. This stands for:

I'm speaking of the so-called mad-cow-disease, known since 1981.

It's a disease, which first strikes the central nervous system of cattle, perforates and spongily soaks their brains.

Particularly tragic is the long incubation period. This is the period between being infected with a disease and the appearance of the first symptoms. For the mad-cow-disease it takes 2-8 years, in extreme cases even 25 years.

The behaviour of the stricken cattle changes between aggression and apathy, thus dullness. A complete loss of the capability of orientation leads to a giddy walk followed by falls with fractures of legs and ribs. Add to this, trembling of the muscles in the areas of neck, shoulder and flanks, paralysis and convulsions of face-nerves.

The main problem is whether this disease is infectious to man.

We're used to the fact, that of national side all the dangers which could lead to serious demands intervention are played down. Here too all truthful information has been and still is stopped as in cases of fallout (without knowledge of the range of damage they say that there would be no danger to the population), and an eventual transfer of this lethal disease to man is denied.

BSE started in Britain. According to British Law every affected animal has to be bought by the government and has immediately to be disposed of. Typically again, that disposed of is being identically applied to tins, beer-bottles and thus simply rubbish, but also to the bodies of animals, which fell victims to unbelievable suffering, caused by man.

The British Government see demands for billions of pounds come up to them, caused by huge numbers of dying animals due to BSE. Thus, they'd like to give an all-clear signal as quickly as possible and in doing so, they dont shrink from punishable acts.

British BSE-expert Dr.Narang developed a rapid method, which reliably gives information about the early existence of BSE. One might think that this scientifically valuable discovery would win the ear of the British Health Authorities. Far from it: They started a sudden boycott, Dr.Narang was fired for threadbare reasons, got anonymous death-threats, all his BSE-files were stolen, the brakes of his car were sabotaged and also the tyres were slashed.

Another tragic parallel is the fate of a Belgian veterinary surgeon, Karl van Noppen, who challenged, in spite of all threats, a hormone-misuse which for man and animal is unhealthy but actually on the increase. He was stopped on a way to his consulting room and shot in cold blood. His corpse was thrown into a ditch.

I'd like to go into details of the so-called hormone-misuse: Medicine residues no matter what sort may transfer from animal to man by blood-circulation. So-called motorway-veterinarians illegally deliver to stock-farmers of large agricultural enterprises illegally hormones and other medicine, which contrast the effect upon animals to the possible defects of health on man.

Psychiatric drugs are used, which lower the animals urge to move, cause trouble in responsiveness and changes in the blood.

Beta-blockers are used to stabilise blood circulation of pigs before mass transportation. For people who suffer from bronchial asthma, this may lead to life-threatening conditions. So-called gluco-corticoides, the most famous of which is cortisone, swell animal-bodies and increase weight. They may activate mans gastric ulcers and weaken the immune-system. Oestrogens, these are sex hormones, lead to quicker growth, but favour mans allergies and blood-vessel-defects.

Particularly momentous may be the unmeasured administration of antibiotics, which is supposed to prevent infectious diseases. For man, an accumulation of different antibiotic-residues may lead to resistance and thus in serious cases like pneumonia and blood-poisoning makes the required antibiotics worthless or forces the usege of stronger medicine with therefore more and more delicate side-effects.

Without the black market, which is estimated at maybe twice as much, there was medicine injected for 695 millions of DM into bodies of fattened animals in 1994.

The cause of BSE lies probably in feeding cattle with animal meal from dead sheep.

Since the outbreak of this disease, 160.000 animals have suffered a terrible death. They guess that there are already 500.000 new cases of infection.

For 250 years, the BSE-similar Traber-disease has been known in sheep; named after the staggering walk, the Scrapy. The germs of this disease have been rendered harmless by heating them to 360°C, before using the meat for animal meal. But within the scope of austerity measures, the temperature was decreased to below 138°C with the result that the germs of Scrapy survived and braved any defensive reaction of the immune-system.

In spite of that, it was used as concentrated feed for all kinds of fattened animals, likewise in zoological gardens and big fur-farms. Many of those animals whose pelts were used, were miserably going to ruin because of BSE.

A way of communicating itself to animals on free hunting-ground would have disastrous consequences, espescially with a view to the long incubation period. Striking is the assertion in the latest veterinarian reports on BSE, that an early diagnosis of the infection was not possible up to now. The work and events concerning Dr. Narang, who provided this possibility, are not mentioned anywhere.

In Britain the meat of slaughtered animals then has directly as well as indirectly (via Holland, Portugal, Spain, France and Italy to Germany) been imported as it was made public in a TV-show on 26th January 1996 so that in the end, nobody actually knows, where his meat is really from.

Here too, the reaction of the meat-industry wasn't wanting. CMA another unknown abbreviation means: Central Marketing Association of the German Agricultural Business. They went onto the attack and maintained daringly, it's all simple scaring to rattle the customers. If you ensure when shopping that your meat is really from Germany, you dont run any risk.

But whether a shop-assistant is really able to tell you the origin of meat or whether she would tell you the truth is questionable. Or did you ever receive another answer than certainly when asking whether the goods you were just buying were really fresh or not?

Ms. Margrit Herbst, veterinary surgeon in Schleswig-Holstein, lost her position, because she refused to make out false papers. Thus, not those are being punished who commit forgery, but those who dont for the protection of peoples' health and on behalf of the truth.

Our authorities refer to the ordered routine in slaughter-houses; this is a brief inspection of those animals which have been driven to the death-boxes.

For two reasons this is an excuse:

  1. Alleged inconspicuous animals might as at passport controls pass, despite being infected.
  2. The argument that animals would be killed when behaving conspicuously can't be taken seriously, because serious symptoms dont arise during the long incubation period, but not yet after the out-break of the disease.
And what about animals which have left the degrading, agonising animal-transportations behind?

We know the sleep-depriving film-scenes by Mr. Manfred Karremann, how the exhausted creatures are beaten off the ramp. How can those slaughtermen judge whether the staggering and tumbling of those creatures is due to their electro-shocks or because of BSE?

It's not certain yet, whether the germs are so-called prions (which have changed protein-structures from animal to animal), unknown and infectious protein-structures, like viruses and bacteria.

Holes in the skulls of animals result from bolt-shots in the slaughter-houses. Butchers pick through them with instruments to destroy the spinal cord, whereby they open to germs (in the case of a BSE-infection) ways to blood-vessels. Here, another source of danger arises for man, in the field of cosmetics, you know. Cattle-tallow from offal as a basis for ointment of possibly infected sheep in lip-stick, soap and be ruled out, but even small wounds and cuts, especially of mucous membranes, conceal the small risk similar to protein-extraction from tissue of animals afterbirths in production of medicine.

It is just as hard to exclude the dangers of infectiousness of BSE on man as it is to judge whether there be a connection between BSE and C.J.D.

This abbreviation means Creutzfeld-Jakob-Disease. The absolute similarity of the symptoms and the same development of this likewise spreading disease are striking. That's why it's already reputed to be the human equivalent of the mad-cow-disease.

For the first time it's been described by Hans-Gerhard Creutzfeld, neurologist in Kiel and Alfons Jakob, neurologist in Hamburg. Since 1975 it's also been called spongious enzephalopathy.

The similarity of most of the symptoms to some other diseases makes differential-diagnosis more difficult, uncoordinated movements of multiple sclerosis, amnesia and loss of orientation of Alzheimer or trembling of muscles and paralysis of the nerves of Parkinsons Disease.

You can see how little information there is on Creutzfeld-Jakob is, if you open the volouminous textbook on neurological diseases by Thomas Brand (1993), where you'll only find patchwork-like information. It's proven that this lethal disease caused death for 14 people, who were vaccinated with a substance made of blood-serum from sheep. In Germany butchers and children died, after treatment with growth-hormones (30 in France and 10 in the USA).

In spite of this, the USA delivered a limited ultimatum to the EU to raise the import ban for beef to escape from difficult sanctions.

Minister Seehofer (Germany) answered the question of a TV-reporter, whether he would nevertheless stick to the import ban or not: As usual well have to find compromise solutions.

What such compromises will look like in the end when it comes down to public health is easily imagined.

More and more scientists tend to think that a connection between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob can be taken as fact, especially since the latest number of infected people shows an alarming rise and is twice as high as in 1985.

In 1995, 55 people died of this incurable brain-syndrome, among them farmers who had direct contact with BSE-infected cattle. This was concealed by the government, but it came to public notice by chance: a fax of the investigating committee landed in a newspapers office (The Daily Mail) instead of the Public Health Ministry.

Of course, for this disease, too, no end of animal testing has been carried out, transferring humane spongiforme brain-material to

- chimpanzees
- capuchin
- monkeys
- deaths-head monkeys
- green monkeys
- rhesus monkeys
- pigs
- goats and
- mice.
The only thing resulting from it was some sort of statistics, that all the named species had completely different incubation-periods, but the same strong symptoms and that they all died very painfully after 1-7 years. A histological examination of the brain substance proved in all cases spongiforme enzephalopathy.

To test the other way round, to see whether the disease can be really transferred from animal to man, is not feasible for obvious reasons.

Thats why in spite of innumerable animal tests the main question is still unsettled, the one of transferring the disease to man.

By means of the identity of the histological results of brain-sections of people and animals, most scientists feel confirmed in supposing a direct connection and a transfer possibility between BSE and CJD.

Every single person has to decide now on their own, whether to expose themselves and their children to these risks or not. Already today, experts, who dont let themselves be browbeaten, say that BSE and CJD are essentially more dangerous than AIDS, because you can protect yourself against it, but you cannot against the germs, which are able to attack all animal food.

It's high time that people who think they couldn't live without meat, reflected upon their eating habits in their own interest. This is not only due to the fear of BSE or CJS, but for two further reasons:

First because the consumption of meat leaves remains of the already mentioned, irresponsible hormone treatment in human bodies, second because the consumption of meat is basically responsible for the shocking rise in heart disease.

Let alone the ethical-moral aspects of the mass breeding of animals, which causes starvation in the 3rd world, since the EU only imports 50 millions of tons of rice, corn, soya and other food each year from India, Argentina, Brazil and even from countries of the Sahel-zone which are permanently threatened by famine.

Thus, animals in our wealthy part of the world are fed with the food of the poor and the poorest for the sake of our consumers, to provide them with meat stuffed with medicine, so that they can eat until they get ill.

Over 80 per cent of world corn is used as fodder. There wouldn't have to be famine, thinking of this quantity.

In addition to these dangers due to wrong food, there are disastrous chemicals in our food of which Prof. Türkauf (Uni Basel) says that they didn't exist 2-3 decades ago, not even in cupboards with toxic material in them. And toxicologist Prof. Zbinden (Uni Zürich) adds, that there no dose of a foreign chemical substance in our body exists without effect.

Economic interests, which are superior to consumer protection not only in terms of the mad-cow-disease and CJD, of the eurocrats in Brussels can make afraid, because they give you more and more the impression that they play their irresponsible games and that they are willing to sacrifice public health for it.

If money and power join, ethics and morality obviously fail.

Dr. med. Walter Schmidt
Translated into English by C. Reiter

(This text is also available in German on the WWW:

Another Meat Scandal in Switzerland

Shock and disgust were the most used expressions when journalists discovered that not only animal-derived feed but also human placentas have been fed for about 20 years to ruminants. When the disgusting facts were iscovered, there could be found no one responsible for the fact that 2 big birth clinics in Zurich had sent all their several thousand human placentas yearly to a factory for the production of bone-meal and meat by-products. There was a serious reaction amoung the public and probably some more people became vegetarians.

Some decades ago there was another purpose for human placentas: After the birth of a healthy child the father buried the placenta in the garden and nearby or on it was planted a tree as a symbol for the childs life, for it was known that placentas were very nutritious.

Sigrid De Leo