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Mad cow disease experts at UC Davis

February 10, 2012

Two Northern California residents were recently diagnosed as having a type of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease that is sometimes associated with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The following UC Davis experts are available to answer questions about mad cow and associated diseases.

Diseases caused by prion proteins

Christina Sigurdson is an assistant professor in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, based at UC San Diego as part of the UC Veterinary Medical Center - San Diego. Her research focuses on the molecular basis of a group of diseases, including BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which are caused by proteins called prions. She studies the genetic and the environmental factors that influence prion transmission. Contact: Christina Sigurdson, UCVMC - SD, (858) 534-0978, csigurdson@ucsd.edu.

Dairy cattle

Terry Lehenbauer, director of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, can discuss procedures that are taken to protect dairy cows from mad cow disease/BSE and programs in place to ensure the safety of the beef supply against exposure to BSE. Lehenbauer is an expert on dairy cattle herd health, the epidemiology of cattle diseases, and animal health economics of cattle production systems. Contact: Terry Lehenbauer, Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center, (559) 688-1731, tlehenbauer@ucdavis.edu.

Protecting against mad cow

James Cullor is a UC Davis veterinary professor and director of the UC Davis Dairy Food Safety Laboratory. He is an authority on dairy cattle and dairy farming. Cullor can discuss the biology of mad cow disease/BSE, how it spreads and is controlled, the adequacy of U.S. surveillance programs and the prevention of BSE in large dairy herds. He can also discuss the proportion of dairy cattle in the U.S. beef supply. His research lab developed a quick test that uses DNA forensic techniques to detect the presence in livestock feed of prohibited materials from cows, sheep, goats and deer. Contact: James Cullor, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, in Tulare at (559) 688-1731 (extension 202), cell (559) 936-0510, jscullor@ucdavis.edu.

Beef cattle

John Maas, a UC Davis Cooperative Extension veterinarian, is a national expert on raising animals for food, particularly for beef. He also has been an active cattle rancher for 40 years. Maas has been to several European countries on a USDA mission to review mad cow disease/BSE diagnosis, testing and control systems. He is a frequent speaker to consumer, beef producer and veterinary groups and to the media. Maas can discuss U.S. cattle-tracking methods and disease-surveillance programs from regulatory, industry and university perspectives. Contact: John Maas, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, (530) 752-3990, jmaas@ucdavis.edu. (Maas is away from campus but will respond to messages.)

About UC Davis

UC Davis is a global community of individuals united to better humanity and our natural world while seeking solutions to some of our most pressing challenges. Located near the California state capital, UC Davis has more than 34,000 students, and the full-time equivalent of 4,100 faculty and other academics and 17,400 staff. The campus has an annual research budget of over $750 million, a comprehensive health system and about two dozen specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and 99 undergraduate majors in four colleges and six professional schools.

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