01 April 1998
Flowers could be responsible for
spreading BSE — Deallar
By Boyd Champness
THE common daisy and other flowers could be responsible for making British cattle more susceptible to the BSE agent, the BSE inquiry heard today.
Scientists have discovered there are 17 flowers and plants prevalent on UK farms with high levels of natural chemicals in their leaves – called alkaloidal glycosidase inhibitors (AGIs) – which could be responsible for inducing the BSE disease.
Scientists suspect that these AGIs somehow effect the sugars which are attached to the prion protein cells in the brains of cattle – speeding the take-up of the disease.
This would explain why the disease hit epidemic proportions in the UK and not in other countries where cattle were also raised on meat and bone meal (MBM).
Speaking to the inquiry today, controversial microbiologist Stephen Dealler said this was one of the many research projects worthy of Government funding but had been ignored by Government.
Research into this theory is still continuing at the University of Oxford and at the Institute for Grassland Research (IGER) in Aberystwyth, but thanks to a small team of scientists who are carrying out work without grants, he said.
Dr Dealler was very critical of how MAFF and SEAC – the Governments BSE advisory body – handled the crisis in the early 1990s.
He said important information and theories unearthed by Prof Richard Lacey and himself were simply ignored by MAFF and SEAC. He accused MAFF of all sorts of wrong-doings, including not permitting adequate samples of BSE brain tissue to be given to researchers for testing.
Often criticised for making outrageous comments and seeking publicity, Dr Dealler said approaching the media was the only way he could get his message across.
“Incredible attempts were made early on to do things through official channels,” he said.
He said he only approached the media in 1993 after his paper Current and Future Dimensions of the Epidemic of BSE was totally dismissed by MAFF and SEAC. The paper suggested that the level of infectivity in cattle was higher than either body had predicted.