DC, March 21, 2005 (ENS): The U.S. Department
of Agriculture has redirected almost $2 million in funding
to conduct research on bovine spongiform encephalopathy
(BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns made the announcement
during keynote remarks at the National Restaurant Association's
Food Safety Summit on Friday.
In addition, said Johanns, $5 million has been awarded
to 17 colleges and universities to establish a Food
Safety Research and Response Network.
"In a rapidly changing world marketplace, science
is the universal language that must guide our rules
and policies, rather than subjectivity or politics,"
"Expanding our research efforts to improve the
understanding of BSE and other food related illness
pathogens will strengthen the security of our nation's
food supply. These projects will help improve food safety
by enhancing our research partnerships with the academic
community and establish another tool to aid our response
to food related disease outbreaks."
The BSE research funds, redirected by the USDA's Agricultural
Research Service (ARS), will be used for new projects
The newly funded projects include an international
collaboration with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency
in Great Britain to study the biology of the BSE agent.
BSE is a relatively new disease of cattle. It was first
recognized and defined in the United Kingdom in November
1986. It reached its peak in 1992, when 36,680 UK cases
were confirmed, and has declined since then.
Two other international collaborations were funded
one with the Italian BSE Reference Laboratory to evaluate
present diagnostic tools for detecting atypical BSE
cases, and the other with the University of Santiago
de Compostela in Spain to compare North American and
European BSE strains.
About $750,000 will go toward a biocontainment facility
now under construction at the ARS National Animal Disease
Center in Ames, Iowa. These facilities will eventually
allow the long-term study of BSE infection in cattle
and other large animals, which can take a decade or
ARS developed the immunohistochemistry test that is
currently used as the gold standard in the United States
to confirm a diagnosis of BSE. ARS has an annual budget
of nearly $10 million for research into transmissible
spongiform encephalopathies and 15 scientists involved
in the research.
The Food Safety Research and Response Network, spearheaded
by North Carolina State University, will include a team
of more than 50 food safety experts from 18 colleges
and universities who will investigate several of the
most prevalent food related illness pathogens.
Pathogens like E.coli, Salmonella and Campylobactor
will be studied to determine where they are found in
the environment, how they are sustained and how they
The group also will serve as a response team that can
be mobilized to conduct focused research to control
major episodes of food related illnesses. Episodes could
include investigation of health problems associated
with agricultural bioterrorism and the deliberate contamination
of agricultural commodities.
USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension
Service provided funding for the $5 million award.
The 17 other institutions in the project are: Cornell
University, Iowa State University, McMasters University,
Mississippi State University, North Dakota State University,
The Ohio State University, Tuskegee University, University
of Arizona, University of California at Davis, University
of California at Berkeley, University of Florida, University
of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Minnesota,
University of Montreal, Washington State University,
and West Texas A&M University.