Deadly Feasts

Erica Dunyon Directed Readings Deadly Feasts by Richard Rhodes I have to admit, on the opening scene I was really skeptical about reading this book. I really have always hated the idea of cannibalism, so when I was reading and imagining this, in my mind one word came to my attention, “Disgusting! ” Progression into the book, however, received my attention, and I continued forward. I enjoyed reading this book. It was very informative, easy to understand, and easy to read. I learned about various prion diseases and their effect on each species they infect.
Deadly Feasts is about spongiform encephalopathies including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Scrapies, Rida, Kuru, and mad cow disease. This book explains the relationships each spongiform disease has in common with each other, as well as their signs and symptoms. Mad cow disease and scrapies are quite similar to each other, and was endemic in Britain when this book was published. Another rare disease occurring in humans known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has then been related to mad cow disease. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is one in which eats human brains. Kuru is thought to be another spongiform disease.
Kuru was thought to be a result of sorcery. Initially when this disease was discovered, the belief was leaning toward this disease taking on a genetically transmissible role. After much research, it is known that it is a transmissible disease spread by the consumption of infected flesh. The extremely unusual thing about kuru, along with other spongiform encephalopathies, is that it lacks the presence of inflammation. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) are also known as prion diseases. The infectious microbe in TSEs is a specific protein called prion protein.

These prion proteins and proteins of the brain are extremely similar. This may be the reason these proteins are not detected by the immune system which is why they do not cause inflammation. These diseases are unique because they are impossible to kill. They have been exposed to virtually everything including, extreme temperatures and radiation, and still have the ability to infect and cause disease. Gajdusek believed that transmission of these spongiform encephalopathies was in the form of protein in diseased dead animals, including sheep and cattle that were fed to other cattle.
Rhodes refers to a concept known as industrial cannibalism. This means that the supplements were made from dead cows. Despite the fact that cattle were coming down with a disease that decreases the cow population, supplements were still made with the remaining’s of diseased cattle and fed to other cattle. Transmission of this disease can occur months or even up to decades because the disease can incubate for the allotted time. Britain was responsible for the initiation of research in this epidemic group of diseases. Britain did not inform the public in regards to this disease.
They also bought diseased animals for half of the market value. The British government banned individuals from feeding animal waste to other animals, in 1989 to limit the spread of these diseases. In addition to limitting the transmission of these diseases, as a safety measure, the FDA prevented industries from feeding cattle protein from dead sheep, cattle, and other susceptible diseased animals. Europe still has increasing cases of the disease, which it infects many various herds and species of animals, supporting that the epidemic disease is able to spread across the species barrier The British government, by making the wrong public health choices, has conducted a frightening natural experiment, allowing a lethal disease agent to spread through the human food supply, exposing the entire British population. ” (Rhodes 97) America is trying to prevent the spread of spongiform disease transmission from Britain to the U. S. by manufacturing our own beef and meat products. Unfortunately, it would not be known if the disease has affected our population until it is a point when it might be too late. TSE’s are essentially unidentifiable until they progress to the point of brain damage. ” (Rhodes 97) Spongiform diseases are still a known problem in the world, and the protection we give ourselves, or lack of protection is an issue brought up by Rhodes. Rhodes refers that spongiform diseases might be Britain’s ”new Black Death. ” He states that the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies are public health problems and not only clinical. Transmission is controlled by actions of both social and institutional aspects.
The term the “new Black Death” refers to the ease of the transmission of the disease. If the plan for eradication is not carefully planned and executed, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies can be a serious epidemically known disease that can cause many deaths. In conclusion, I recommend Deadly Feasts to all individuals, not necessarily limited to only those interested in microbiology. This book gives insight on a former, and always possible, group of diseases that can become epidemic at any time. I believe knowledge is power, so knowing about these diseases only contributes to public safety.

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