Friday, October 14, 2005

Urine May Carry Prions

Reuters is reporting that Swiss researchers think that infectious prions may be passed between cattle in urine.
They found that, under certain conditions in mice, the deformed brain proteins known as prions that transmit the disease could be found in urine.

"We tested whether chronic inflammatory kidney disorders would trigger excretion of prion infectivity into urine," Adriano Aguzzi of the University Hospital of Zurich and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.

Scrapie-infected mice with kidney inflammation excreted prions in their urine, and these prions infected other mice with scrapie when injected, Aguzzi and colleagues found.

It is a long way from this laboratory experiment to a real-world setting in which grazing or browsing animals pick up and become infected with urine from others, but the researchers say it shows such transmission is theoretically possible.
This is an interesting development and one that makes a lot of sense. If it turns out to be true we'll have to figure out new ways to dispose of tons of cattle urine-soaked sawdust and soil every year. It might also mean that free range cattle are more prone to BSE infection than pen raised cattle.

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