On Friday, Montana state officials announced that a few thousand head of cattle had been quarantined, as a cow near the border of Yellowstone National Park has tested positive for brucellosis.
Brucellosis was first introduced into North America by infected livestock brought in by European settlers. It’s a zoonotic bacterial infection with forms that affect many different species of mammals, most notably humans, bison, elk, cattle, horses, pigs, sheep and goats.
In cattle, signs of brucellosis are limited. The disease presents itself most commonly with abortions and premature calf death.
Drum roll please ... because the winner of the Biotech Shorties contest in the Philippines have been announced.
The ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications) and SEARCA ( Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture) sponsored the contest to see what people in the Philippines thought about biotechnology in agriculture.
The film makers had 3 minutes to illustrate the benefits of biotechnology so the perspective is admittedly one-sided, but the videos are interesting so we thought we'd share the winning entries with you:
Until recently science thought all infectious diseases in animals and humans were caused by living organisms, namely bacteria, viruses and fungi. In other words, infectious disease was caused by a living entity that contained DNA or at the very least RNA.
Hence our treatments for farm animals and humans are designed to kill the offending organism. But you can’t kill that which is not alive. Prions, basically malformed proteins, are not alive by any standard. They lack DNA yet they self-replicate and spread, hence their infectious nature. Now scientists are struggling to find a way to treat diseases caused by killer dead things.
You could think of them as zombies if you have a fondness for science fiction. But make no mistake prions are not fiction.
I’ve had quite a few conversations in the last few weeks about the science behind transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) such as mad cow and chronic wasting disease, but it wasn’t until a cow/calf producer recently asked me about genetic susceptibility to scrapie that I decided to look into it for this blog.
Scrapie, a disorder of sheep and goats, was first identified in the early 1700s and, as you may have inferred, belongs to a family of neurodegenerative disorders known as TSEs. It’s generally accepted that these disorders are caused by prions, which are abnormal pathogenic agents that have the ability to cause abnormal folding in normal, specific, cellular, prion proteins. It’s confusing, I know. But, perhaps their short-forms will help. Prions (the bad guys) are often referred to as PrPsc, with the ‘sc’ honouring scrapie, the first known TSE. Alternatively, prion proteins (the normal, cellular guys) are referred to as PrPc.