[At the current time a protein particle called a prion is the chief pathogenic suspect in the transmittal of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The particle is known as PrPSc. The following (shortened) report by journalist Judy Siegel appeared on 2 July 2001 the Jerusalem Post. Subsequently, it was forwarded from the US Department of Agriculture to a wide range of veterinary, public health and academic research units. The report can be read in its entirety at http://www.jpost.com ]
Jerusalem (July 2)
"A Hadassah University Hospital research team has discovered that the prion responsible for the fatal "mad cow disease" in animals and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans can be detected in urin.
"The tiny pathogen that causes the incurable neurodegenerative disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human variant can be identified even before symptoms appear. This means that blood donations by human carriers can be prevented and millions of unaffected cows will be saved from wholesale slaughter.
"The ground-breaking article on the discovery has just been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry by Dr. Ruth Gabizon of the neurology department at the Ein Kerem hospital and her team of Gideon Shaked, Yuval Shaked, Zehavit Kariv,, Michelle Halimi, and Inbal Avraham.
"The only known component of the priion, known as PrPSc, is found mostly in the brains of animals and humans affected with prion diseases, and has not been detected in blood. But the researchers demonstrate that a substance called protease-resistant PrP isoform can be detected in the urine of infected hamsters, cattle and humans.
"Gabizon said yesterday the most important thing is that 'the PrP isoform was also found in the urine of hamsters inoculated with prions long before the appearance of clinical signs.' ...
"Gabizon said that almost no one has looked at the urine for prions because it was thought prions did not pass through the kidneys. Since last September [September 2000] Gabizon and her doctoral student Shaked had been looking for other substances in hamster urine. They identified the tiny protein particles and found that they do not break down in the kidneys but are eliminated in the urine.
"Gabizon and her team are in the final stages of establishing a Jerusalem start-up under the auspices of Hadassah's research and development arm Hadassit to produce a commercial kit for testing animal and human urine.
"So far, BSE has been easily diagnosed [by the Hadassah team] using urine taken from over 50 British cows diagnosed with BSE and sent to Israel, along with samples from healthy cows, by the Veterinary Laboratory Agency. 'In the blind test, we quickly picked out the affected animals,' Gabizon said.
"A decade ago, Gabizon worked in the lab of Professor Stanley Prusiner, the American discoverer of the prion who recently received the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the achievement. Since she returned to Hadassah, she has dedicated her time to work on prions.
"Gabizon said the Hadassah discovery also raised the 'alarming possibility' that the human
and animal forms can be transmitted by contact with infected urine, even from those who as
yet show no symptoms."