What Are the Treatments for Mad Cow Disease in Humans?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2014
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Known scientifically as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease in humans is an incurable degenerative neurological disease caused by consumption of contaminated food. Treatment of mad cow disease in humans focuses on keeping the patient comfortable in the later stages. Unfortunately, this disease is usually not diagnosed correctly until it is in the later stages, or after death.

Mad cow disease in humans is often thought of as a brain disorder. This disorder is caused by infectious abnormal proteins, called prions, that eat away at the tissues of the brain. This disease can stay dormant in humans for years. Early symptoms can include memory loss, anxiety, and nervous disorders.

There is no cure for mad cow disease. This means that no medication can be administered, and no surgery can be performed to stop or get rid of this disease. Scientists are still researching a cure, however, and there may be a treatment option for humans with mad cow disease.

Treatment for mad cow disease in humans mainly deals with keeping a patient comfortable until death, which can happen a few months to a year after symptoms start. Strong pain killers may be used to help control the pain, for instance. Additionally, a patient who is in a coma will typically have a feeding tube and an intravenous (IV) drip.


This disease is often misdiagnosed, so doctors may not know what ails a patient until the later stages of mad cow disease in humans. Magnetic resonance scans and spinal fluid tests are often used to help doctors diagnose patients who may have mad cow disease. The only completely accurate diagnosis method, however, is a brain biopsy, which is usually performed after death.

As mad cow disease in humans progresses, it will typically bore small holes throughout the brain. The prions that cause this are resistant to several treatment methods. For instance, they can not be stopped with radiation or heat. In fact, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), cooking meat infected with these agents cannot even kill the prions.

To prevent this disease, a person can avoid certain types of meat that may contain nervous tissue contaminated with the disease. Ground beef, sausage, and hot dogs, for instance, are more likely to contain this contaminated tissue. Meat with bone in it may also contain contaminated tissue. Additionally, if person is in a country where there have been reported cases of mad cow disease in humans, he should avoid any products that may contain beef altogether.


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