Facts about Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies
TSE or transmissible spongiform encaphalopathies is a progressive disease of the brain and nervous system and it is usually transmitted from animals like cows, cats, goats, mules, elks etc. There are other names to TSE like prion disease or BSE – bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Since this disease is a self-replicating protein called as prion, it has been named after its carrier. This is a fatal disease where there is degeneration of brain itself with rigorous neurological indications. BSE is commonly found in North America and can be more easily spread via mule deer when consumed.
This is a disease which do not spread through contact but only when the meat of infected animals are consumed or even when preparations made out of their bones are consumed. The only other means of the disease to spread in human is via blood transfusion. Unfortunately normal sterilization techniques like boiling irradiating does are not effective to eradicate these proteins. The only better thing about this disease is that its incubation period is around four to five years during which treatment can be received if detected. Otherwise, after onset it does not take a long time for brain degeneration. This disease is more profound in cattle and other animals but research is still ongoing for complete establishment of reasons and cure in human. In many cases it has also been noted that the spread of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies might be even genetic. The prion proteins are exceptional and unique in their structure and might even undergo mutation when comes in conjugation with some other rare mutant proteins. In between there spread an epidemic when cows were fed on processed meat of dead and infected cows which caused BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) to spread to a great extent. After this incident, feeding processed meat was banned to cattle.
There are four characteristic symptoms of TSE- spongiform alterations, loss of crucial nerve cells which are responsible for the very important motor responses in our body, abnormal increase in astrocytes known as astrocytosis and amyloid plaque formation. All these changes in human body causes clinical signs like unusual sensations in the body, lack of coordination, jerky or unstable body movements, personality changes which can also lead to depression, lack of sleep, memory problems. In last stages, patients undergo severe forms of mental problems along with total impairment of movements and speech.
Unfortunately till date there are no complete cure for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. There are suggested medicines for probable and temporary relief but not permanent cure. Recent studies conducted in University of Toronoto and Caprion pharmaceuticals have explored some new opportunities which might help in curing this disease but final research is still going on.