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The ramifications of mad cow disease are remarkable. We wish at least some of it was good news. Within a few years (if not now), it may be unsafe to undergo surgery (medical and dental) and even routine endoscopic medical examinations.

The problem is prion-contamination of medical instruments which cannot be sterilized; yet medical experts declare the cost of discarding them after each use in prohibitive.

According to the November 13, 2000, issue of The Times of London, England, "Half the surgical instruments used for tonsil operations could be contaminated by variant CJD, according to an expert." The problem is that autoclaving equipment, used in hospitals and dental clinics everywhere to sterilize instruments, does not kill prions—the cause of animal and human variants of mad cow disease. This means that, if a patient that the instruments were used on had CJD, prions can be transferred to subsequent patients.

The estimate for the surgical instruments was based on a conservative estimate of 10,000 people in Britain which are incubating the disease. John Collinge of Imperial College School of Medicine in London said that the ear, nose, and throat surgeons at St. Mary’s Hospital, part of the medical school, "calculated that half the tonsillectomy [instrument] sets in the UK are contaminated. This is, potentially, a serious problem. It’s a major problem to which the Department of Health has given a lot of thought and not much action." The British Department of Health is consulting with surgeons on whether to spend the extra money to switch to disposable, single-use instruments—especially in tonsil, appendix, eye, and brain surgeries (Times of London, November 13, 2000).

The following excerpt was written January 14, 1999 by John von Radowitz, medical correspondent. Parallel reports were printed in the British Press Association, in the Guardian, for January 15, 1999, and by Steve Connor, Science editor of the Independent, January 14, 1999. See the January 1999 issue of the British medical journal, The Lancet, for detailed research data. Here are these findings:

"Scientists are to test thousands of people for CJD, the human form of mad cow disease, after discovering evidence in people’s tonsils, it emerged today. Previously, the disease could only be confirmed after victims had died. The find means it may be possible in the next three years to establish if a CJD time bomb is ticking within Britain’s population. But it also raises renewed concerns about the risk of infection from surgical equipment in hospitals, the expert behind the discovery said.

"Scientists plan to screen thousands of people using a new test. A significant positive result would provide early warning of a major epidemic to come and allow time for action aimed at averting the disaster. Professor John Collinge, from St. Mary’s Hospital, London, said today: ‘If we were to screen several thousand tonsils and found that several were postive that would be a real cause for concern.’

"The concern about infection raised by the new findings centers on rogue prion proteins that spread the disease and cannot be cleaned from surgical instruments no matter how thoroughly they are sterilized. In the future, therefore, it may be necessary to introduce disposable instruments for certain procedures. A special committee of experts advising the [British] Government is already looking at this issue.

"Animal studies have shown that spongiform encephalopathy diseases, which include different forms of CJD, BSE in cattle and the sheep infection scrapie, reside in the lymph system before attacking the brain. Tonsils are linked to the lymph system. The new research by Professor Collinge’s team showed this also appeared to be the way new variant CJD behaved in humans. But only the new variant form of CJD, which is effectively mad cow disease transferred to humans through infected beef, was detected in tonsils. The ‘classical’ form of CJD, which appears for no known reason in one person in a million, was not seen in the tissue samples.

"Scientists now know they can diagnose new variant CJD by analyzing a surgically removed piece of tonsil tissue. Until now, scientists have had to wait until the death of a patient to find out definitively if there is CJD infection. [But, in snipping a piece of tonsil to test for the disease, they might give it to the person!]

"No one knows at present what the fallout might be from people eating BSE-infected beef that was routinely used in burgers and other meat products before a [British] ban on suspect offals was introduced in 1989. New variant CJD has a long incubation period which may run into decades, in which case the trickle of cases seen so far may be just the start of a flood.

"Professor Collinge admitted he was concerned about the possibility of new variant CJD being transmitted via infected surgical instruments. This had always been a theoretical risk. But the conclusive evidence of tonsil infection [by prions] meant it was now a real possibility. But throwing away expensive surgical instruments had to be ruled out because of the cost, said Professor Collinge. He added, ‘There is no means of sterilizing surgical instruments adequately for prions."

It should be mentioned here that, in order to cut costs, more and more U.S. hospitals are reusing "disposable" medical catheters and equipment which is infecting people with an increasing number of diseases. This infection is occurring, not only during operations but even routine physical exams (oral, rectal, vaginal, etc.)! For more on this, see such sources as "Risky Recycling," U.S. News & World Report, September 20, 1999. This is a major developing health crisis, brought about by tightening medical costs, and involves both prions and other diseases.



Douglas P. Starr, in his 1998 book, Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce (Knopf is the publisher), discloses that, first the AIDS crisis and now the prion crisis is destroying the American Red Cross (ARC) blood supplies, both in reputation, number of blood donations, and financial base.

Having failed to live up to its 1988 agreement with the FDA, in 1998, the ARC was required, under court order, to make extremely expensive changes (which increased its costs by $25-$35 per unit of blood). The changeover, required by the AIDS crisis, cost the ARC $287 million.

But then, a new crisis occurred: In 1994, the news broke that a Utah man, Doug McEwen, was slowly dying of CJD—mad cow disease. The worst part was that McEwen had previously donated over a hundred blood transfusions to the ARC blood supply, part of which had been sent to Canada for distribution. The blood had been intermingled in with many large pools of blood.

After months of deliberation, the ARC ordered the destruction of several million dollars worth of blood. Ultimately, that one case cost the ARC $130 million.

But who knows how many other AIDS or prion-infected people have been donating blood or, in the future, will begin to do so? It is a well-known fact that homosexuals make extra money by selling blood, and there is no practical way to test prospective blood donors for prions.

The British medical journal, Lancet, for January 9, 1999 reported that, in December 1998, the Canadian Government officially decided that all the blood, contaminated by McEwen, the Utah man who died of CJD, could be released into the public blood supply! Declaring that there is "no scientific evidence" that CJD could be transmitted through blood, the Canadian Government lifted a 4-year quarantine of blood products made from plasma donated by McEwen "and others with CJD."

In late December, 1998, Health Canada’s Bureau of Biologics, under the direction of Keith Bailey, freed Canada’s blood agencies to use albumin, immunoglobulins, and factor VIII made from plasma from people with CJD, including McEwen. He had donated blood over 100 times, including some after he had begun to show signs of CJD. Canadian blood banks had saved millions of dollars, and hospitals throughout the nation would not experience any blood shortages.

U.S. health authorities only require the withdrawal of plasma from donors with variant CJD. All the rest of the blood they give is used! For more on this, see the Lancet article.




The chart on the next page was prepared by the Centers on Disease Control (CDC), based in Atlanta.

The bar graph shows that a majority of people who contract CJD (mad cow disease) incubate the disease for a number of years and do not die until they have passed their late 40s.

The line graph indicates death rate per 1 million people, which peaks at the age of 73.


Vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements are an invaluable aid to health and healing. But you need to read the label carefully. The following news release, dated September 27, 2000, discusses so-called "herbal" supplements which contain animal products.

The following article was released by the Organic Consumers Association, through the Associated Press, February 5, 2001.

"New York: Despite their plant-based image, some herbal supplements contain ‘raw animal parts’—including, according to a report, cow brain matter.

"There is no evidence that any herbal product has been contaminated with the agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the mad cow disease that triggers a similar brain-wasting disease in humans who eat tainted beef.

"However, Dr. Scott A. Norton said in an interview, ‘I would advise all of my patients not to take supplements that contain central nervous system tissue from animals.’ [Norton did not realize that CJD can be contracted by eating other parts of BSE-infected animals.] The problem is that herbal-supplement labeling is not always clear, Norton writes in a letter in the July 27th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Although Norton found one product that listed, as part of its ingredients, 17 cow organs, from lungs to brain matter, other manufacturers are not so forthright. For example, most consumers would likely not realize that ‘hypothalamus’ refers to brain tissue, said Norton, a dermatologist and botanist from Chevy Chase. He mentioned one product which contained bull testicles (on the label called "orchis").

" ‘The public,’ Norton said, ‘doesn’t fully understand what they’re getting into when they buy these products.’ The public should at least be aware of what is there, according to Norton. ‘I think a lot of us would feel we’ve been duped,’ he said, ‘if we think we’re getting a wholesome product and then find out it contains animal parts.’ "—Organic Consumers Association, through the Associated Press, February 5, 2001.

Special note: We do well to be very cautious regarding the herbal products we use, to make sure no animal products are included in them. Not mentioned in the above article is the danger of taking calcium supplements which may have bonemeal in them.

Here is a second article, with the same date, about Norton’s findings. There are those who take food supplements which are not vitamins, minerals, or herbs, but "glandulars" which consist of various animal organs.

"Washington (AP): Dr. Scott Norton was browsing through herbal supplements when he spotted bottles containing not just plants but some unexpected animal parts: brains, testicles, tracheas and glands from cows and other animals.

"The Maryland physician sounded an alarm: How can Americans be sure those supplements, some imported from Europe, are made of tissue free from mad cow disease?

"Norton’s complaint has government scientists scrambling to investigate a possible hole in the nation’s safety net against mad cow disease and its cousin that destroys human brains . . Just what bulk ingredients containing cow brain or nerve tissue might be slipping from Europe through U.S. ports? . . The FDA inspects less than 1 percent of all imports under its jurisdiction . . FDA officials contend the issue isn’t a huge concern. They note the majority of supplements are made from plants, not animals . .

"The [supplement] industry’s Council for Responsible Nutrition also calls the worry exaggerated, saying gland-containing supplements account for less than 1 percent of sales. Officials are trying to determine how much is imported and plan to meet soon with FDA."—Organic Consumers Association, Associated Press, February 5, 2001.