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Mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) is a
degenerative, usually fatal disease that affects the central nervous system of
cattle, sheep, and goats. While humans cannot get mad cow disease, in rare
cases they may get a human form called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)
if they eat nerve tissue (the brain and spinal cord) of cattle infected with
mad cow disease.
No one is sure what causes mad cow disease. Experts believe that the
disease may be caused by infectious proteins called prions. In affected
cows, these abnormal proteins are found in the brain, spinal cord, and small intestine.
Current as of:
May 24, 2016
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Leslie Tengelsen, PhD, DVM -
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