Japan reports new mad cow disease strain

Japan recently reported its eighth new case of mad cow disease and raised the concern that it may be seeing a new strain of the disease.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was found in a calf only 23 months old. The calf is considered the youngest animal ever confirmed to have contracted the deadly illness, according to

The Japanese health ministry said that the type of BSE seen in the calf represents a new and unusual strain of the disease. There is some concern that Japan’s screening processes may not always be able to catch the disease.

Scientists are working to determine how the illness made its way into the food chain. It remains unclear what effect the disease could have on Japan’s beef exports, reports.

BSE is a progressive neurological disorder that results from the transmission of what is considered to be a modified prion protein. The prion protein alters its structure to become pathogenic and then attacks the nervous system of cattle, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research indicates that BSE infections probably began in the 1970’s, though the first confirmed cases were identified in 1986. The infections probably spread as a result of feeding cattle meat-and-bone meal that contained BSE infected material from a spontaneously occurring case.