TIL that “mad cow disease” is not spread by a virus or bacteria but by a misfolded protein called a “prion” that, when in contact with normal proteins of the same type, will cause them to misfold in a chain reaction

Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_spongiform_encephalopathy

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  1. Prions are scary as hell.

    There’s no way to “kill” prions. They’ll survive any chemical, heat, cold, or radiation.

    An animal can die of a prion disease, and another animal simply eating grass in the spot where it died **years** later can be infected by it.

  2. Op you need to add that the prion isn’t just anywhere. It comes from ingesting the brain matter of one’s own species.

    Mad cow happened because the Brits were adding cow carcasses to their cow feed.

  3. Prion diseases are strange and scary. Fortunately, they cannot, by their nature, spread very easily. AFAIK, they only spread through either genetically, or through eating prions.

    Known prion disease in humans include Kuru, a disease spread through tribes who practiced funerary canibalism, and Fatal Familial Insomnia, which kills most members of this French family going back centuries once they hit middle age or so.

    Even scarier, a simple random mutation in your genes, or a random accidental misfold in one of your proteins, and you can just get a prion disease without getting it from anyone else. It just spontaneously appears. That is extremely rare, fortunatey, but it happens. And there’s no way to prevent it.

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