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Patron: Her Majesty the Queen


The Royal Scottish Society of Arts
Showcasing Scotland's Science, Technology and Innovation

3rd Meeting of the 181st Session (2001-2002)

Mad Cows, Prions and Humans: The BSE Dilemma

Professor James W. Ironside
The National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit
Western General Hospital

In the Wolfson Suite, Ground Floor
Edinburgh University Library
George Square, Edinburgh
On Monday 21st January 2002, at 7 pm

Prion diseases are fatal neurological disorders occurring in animals and humans, caused by transmissible agents which are markedly different from any other type of virus or bacteria. The identification of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the 1980s drew these hitherto obscure diseases to the public attention as the BSE epidemic unfolded, resulting in a major agricultural and political problem.

Until the identification of BSE, it was thought that no prior disease in animals could ever spread to humans but in 1996 the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh announced the identification of a new variant form of CJD. Subsequent scientific studies have shown that this disease is caused by the BSE agent, raising the possibility of a human epidemic.

There are a considerable number of uncertainties concerning variant CJD and its relationship to BSE How was the BSE agent transferred to humans? As BSE increases in European countries, is the threat to humans increasing? Has BSE spread to the sheep population in the UK?

These scientifically complex disorders have raised major questions affecting health, agriculture, finance and politics in the UK and Europe. The current situation will be reviewed and data from current research identified and evaluated entirely including the possibilities of effective treatment for these devastating disorders.

Location of meeting

Society Business

The President, Dr Allen D C Simpson, will be in the Chair

  1. Nominations for Fellowship of the Society:
    (to be read at meeting)
  2. Notices of meetings on 11th February and 11th March

Members of the Public are welcome to attend

Graham Rule, Secretary

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