The family of a Colorado woman who died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of Mad Cow Disease, believes her death was caused by a herbal dietary supplement containing bovine protein. The woman, who died November 23, 1999, had been taking the supplement to help her lose weight.

Her husband could not remember an occasion when his wife might have eaten a meat product that he hadn?t and can?t think of any other way she could have gotten the condition except through the supplement. Her daughter said, ?She went from a walker to a wheelchair in one week,? before she died.

Puzzled by what might have caused her rapid decline and death, her family sent a sample of her autopsied brain tissue to the National Pathology Surveillance Center. The Center found that it contained evidence of CJD. However, the Center has not yet determined if this is the same variant of CJD that is caused by human ingestion of the Bovine Spongiform Encephelitis prion.

British authorities, however, have warned that over eight hundred medicines may be contaminated with BSE prions, which are not necessarily destroyed by the manufacturing process. For that story, click here.

Whether or not the supplement taken by this CJD victim contained BSE prions, or any prions at all, is not known.

However, the FDA has recently begun investigating the bovine-derived ingredients of some health food supplements, vaccines and gelatin to see if they contain ingredients from European cattle, where Mad Cow Disease has caused over 90 deaths.

According to a study published in the November 8, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, between 1979 and 1998 there were 4,751 documents deaths from CJD in the U.S. None of them were caused by the new variant of CJD that is generated from eating meat tainted with the current strain of Mad Cow Disease.

Last February the FDA discovered some common childhood vaccines contained bovine-derived ingredients. Last week they announced that these vaccines are being reformulated as a precautionary measure.

The FDA inspects less than one percent of dietary supplement imports, and many labels on these products do not list what country the animal products contained in them came from. FDA supplement chief Christine Lewis says the FDA is ?actively reviewing? the dietary supplements loophole and is finding ?minimal evidence there?s a problem.?

The dead woman?s daughter admits being frustrated over what she perceives as a lack of action to prevent a possible epidemic of CJD in the U.S. ?We knew something was wrong, and when it was confirmed we were thinking, ?Oh my God, this is huge,?? she says. ?They know it?s out there, they just don?t want to cause a panic, but it?s coming.?

During the early phases of BSE in Great Britain, authorities were slow to react to the problem. There is a higher level of precaution in the U.S., but much still remains unknown.

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