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New Theory on How Mad Cow Disease Started

Controversial Theory: Roots in Human Disease

Jumping to Conclusions?

An editorial in The Lancet punches holes in the Colchesters' theory. The editorial comes from Susarla Shankar, MD, and colleagues from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India.

"So far, not a single case of BSE or scrapie has been reported from India, except for one case of scrapie from the Himalayan foothills in a sheep, which was probably imported," they write.

The editorialists also dispute the bodies-in-the-river theory.

"By the Colchester's extrapolation, 150 deaths in India are related to Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. In most of the hospital-related deaths, the bodies are not taken to Varanasi, the holy city on the banks of the Ganges in North India, but [are] cremated or buried in community burial grounds," they write.

"Even in Varanasi, most Hindus do not put half-burnt bodies into the river. The Colchesters have drawn heavily from pictures on the Internet and other sources," the editorialists continue.

There's also no proof that cattle could get the disease from ground-up human bones, they write. The Colchesters agree with that point, and they call for tests to see if it's possible.

Proceed With Caution

"Scientists must proceed cautiously when hypothesizing about a disease that has such wide geographic, cultural, and religious implications," write Shankar and colleagues.

"We agree that the idea proposed by the Colchesters needs to be probed further. Facts to support or refute their hypothesis now need to be gathered with urgency and great care," they conclude.

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