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Eye test could reveal Mad Cow disease

Eye test could reveal Mad Cow disease
A cow wearing an ear tag stands in the feed lot at the Sunny Dene Ranch near Mabton, Wash. on Jan. 17, 2004. A Canadian cow living at the ranch was the first cow in the U.S. to have a confirmed case of Mad Cow disease, and the following slaughter of 129 cows. A fourth cow herd in Washington State was quarantined on Friday near Connell. That means 19 cows from the herd o 81 Canadian cows that entered the United States in 2001 have been found. (UPI Photo/Jim Bryant) | License Photo

BOSTON, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A look into the eyes of cattle could be the basis of a long-sought test to detect the infection that causes Mad Cow disease, U.S. scientists say.

Such a test could help spot infected cattle and prevent the disease from entering the human food supply, an article in the journal Analytical Chemistry says.

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The human form of Mad Cow disease is linked to eating beef from animals infected with abnormal proteins called prions implicated in a range of brain diseases, researchers say.

Studies suggest chemical changes in an animal's retina, the light-sensitive nerve tissue in the back of the eye, could provide a basis for detecting prion diseases.

Experiments showed that retinas of sheep infected with scrapie, a disease similar to Mad Cow, reflect a characteristic glow when examined with a beam of light from a special instrument.

The findings suggest eye tests based on the phenomenon could become important in the future for fast, inexpensive diagnosis of prion diseases and other neurological diseases, the journal article says.

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