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Swiss firm finds mad cow proteins in milk

SCHLIEREN, Switzerland, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Swiss firm Alicon said Monday it detected prion proteins in cow milk, raising the possibility mad cow disease could be transmitted via milk.

The findings mark the first time prions have been found in homogenized and pasteurized milk from supermarket shelves. Alicon said it was not clear if the prions were the normal, harmless variety or the abnormal type associated with mad cow disease and related disorders.

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"In the case of the prion proteins detected, it is highly likely that they were of the normal variety posing no danger to health," the company said in a statement. "However, the occurrence of the normal variety could mean that the milk of cows already infected with (mad cow disease) also contains infectious prion proteins (i.e., prions) of the disease-causing variety."

In the study, which appears in the journal Public Library of Science, prions were detected in milk from humans, cows, sheep and goats.

Alicon said it is conducting further research on infected animals to help determine if milk can transmit mad cow disease.

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