WASHINGTON, 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
"In a rapidly changing world marketplace, science is the universal
language that must guide our rules and policies, rather than subjectivity
or politics," said Johanns.
"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 and facilities.
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
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 more.
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 infect herds.
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