An insecticide that has long been applied to the spines of cattle in the U.K. in order to ward off flies could be thecause of Mad Cow Disease.

Cambridge University researcher David R. Brown has shown that the organophosphates in Phosmet could have damaged prions in the cattle, setting the stage for the BSE, which has spread to humans through contaminated meat. Also, medicines for head lice that are used directly on humans contain organophosphates that could result in Alzheimers-like diseases later in life, due to damaged prions. The Nazis knew the dangers of this substance, since they used organophosphates in chemical weapons they were developing during the second World War.

This would be a disaster for ICI, the company that manufactures Phosmet, since people who have contracted CJD (the human form of Mad Cow Disease) could sue the company. Ranchers who have sustained financial damaged due to the BSE epidemic could also sue. In 1996, ICI sold the Phosmet patent to an Arizona-based company called Gowan, which would help protect it from such lawsuits.

So far, scientists are not sure how scrapie, a prion disease found in sheep, could have spread to cattle and they alsoare not certain how Mad Cow Disease (BSE) in cows jumps the species barrier into humans. Since the organophosphates in this widely-used insecticide are known to directly effect humans, some of these questions would be answered if it wasfound to be the origin of the Mad Cow epidemic.

In the U.S., the EPA is reviewing the safety of Phosmet. The Centers of Disease Control has done experiments on micethat prove its toxicity. We do not know whether Phosmet has already been used on U.S. cattle. We do know that the French are currently using Phosmet.

Organophosphates deform prion molecules, which are a form of bodily protein. The deformed prions then bond much morereadily with manganese in the body and these “rogue” prions then set off a chain reaction, producing more deformedprions. These manganese-bonded prions can trigger BSE and CJD, an Alzheimers-like disease that infects humans. Manganese miners in the early 20th century often contracted a similar disease, known as “manganese madness.” Chicken shit has actually been blended into cattle feed in the U.K., and chickens are fed a diet rich in manganese.

Since organophosphates are widely used in the head lice medicines applied to the scalps of millions of childrenworldwide, a another epidemic may be ahead of us, once we gain control of BSE.

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