Atlas of foodborne infections
transmitted by contaminated food and water

Atlas of Patogens Contents Information sources Glossary Administration

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

CZ: Bovinní spongiformní encefalopatie (BSE)
EN: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

Meat and Meat Products


Foodborne Disease:
Untitled document

mad-cow disease - "holes" in the brain, degeneration of physical and mental abilities, and ultimately death

Untitled document

BSE, sometimes referred to as "mad cow disease", was first identified in the UK in 1986. The disease is fatal to cattle within weeks to months of its onset. The incubation period is between 2 and 10 years.

Affected animals may display changes in temperament, such as nervousrfess or aggression, abnormal posture, lack of coordination and difficulty in standing; decreased milk production or loss of body weight despite continued appetite.

Most cattle with BSE show a gradual development of symptoms over a period of several weeks or even months, although some can deteriorate very rapidly. While the original source of the agent responsible for BSE remains unknown, currently the most plausible explanation is that a novel TSE appeared in the UK cattle population in the 1970s and subsequently spread through contaminated meat and bone meal fed to cattle.

The link between BSE and vCJD
A geographical association exists, whereby the majority of BSE cases occurred in the UK and the majority of vCJD cases were also reported there. The emergence of BSE preceded vCJD, indicating a temporal association. Studies of stored human brain tissue internationally have not identified the histopathological changes characteristic of vCJD before the current BSE epidemic. Incubation period and pathological lesion studies in mice and molecular typing studies demonstrate that vCJD is similar to BSE but different from other TSE. It is now widely accepted that vCJD was transmitted to humans through the consumption of contaminated food.
Estimates of future prevalence of vCJD vary widely as too little is known about the disease, especially regarding the incubation period between exposure to the infective agent and the emergence of symptoms.

The International Office for Epizootic Diseases (OIE) reports cases on its website (


Source: Brain tissue with BSE - histopathologic changes
Source: "Mad cow" with clinical features
Source: BSE meat inspection (slaughterhouse)
Source: Collecting of samples for dignostic procudures
Source: Maet free BSE
Source: Predilect place for collecting of samples
Source: Prions are implicated in conditions such as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (damaged brain tissue)
Source: Topography of BSE predilect place

<<< Back