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US government classifies "Mad Cow" prions as a bioterrorism agent

(Philadelphia, PA - January 16, 2003) Recent regulations by the US government regarding the classification of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "Mad Cow" prions, may greatly impede future research of the disease, as reported by Eric Sabo in the January 15, 2004 edition of the Daily Scientist (http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040115/04).As part of the US Bioterrorism Prepareredness and Response Act, BSE prions are regarded as "select agents", potentially dangerous biological materi

The Scientist Staff

(Philadelphia, PA - January 16, 2003) Recent regulations by the US government regarding the classification of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "Mad Cow" prions, may greatly impede future research of the disease, as reported by Eric Sabo in the January 15, 2004 edition of the Daily Scientist (http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040115/04).

As part of the US Bioterrorism Prepareredness and Response Act, BSE prions are regarded as "select agents", potentially dangerous biological materials that require security safeguards such as background checks in order to gain access to in the lab.

The additional time and methods required to study BSE have been a deterrent to many potential researchers, and many prion scientists say an act of agroterrorism on America's livestock is unlikely due to a BSE's long incubation period. "As a bioterrorism agent, BSE is a loser," says Richard Johnson, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins.

In the meantime, as previously reported by the...

The Scientist Daily News also reported on prions as the focus of two papers in a recent issue of Cell, where an mechanism involved in maintaining memory has been shown to have prion-like properties (http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20031229/02/).

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