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Brain Eater, The

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Before Watching

  1. While infectious diseases are generally caused by living organisms, some scientists suspect that Mad Cow Disease is caused by a non-living protein molecule. This is a radical idea in the world of biology because proteins have no known way to replicate and, therefore, spread the disease. Prepare students to consider this hypothesis by first having them brainstorm what they know about the more common viral and bacterial diseases. On the board, write as many diseases as students can think of and then group them into the following categories: Infectious (Contagious, or "Catching"), Non-Infectious ("Not Catching"), and Not Sure. Create a chart and have students answer the following questions for each disease: What causes the disease in people? How is it spread? How can it be prevented, cured, and/or contained?

  2. This program profiles different forms of the disease transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Before watching, you may want to review with students each form of the disease and what species it affects. See Same Disease, Different Names for more information.

Same Disease, Different Names

Form of spongiform encephalopathy

Species infected

How infected

When infection first detected


scrapie

sheep

infectious agent unknown; thought to be diet-based

been in Britain for at least 200 years and in the United States since 1947; has existed in sheep in most countries worldwide

bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease

cows

most likely through a food supplement that contained scrapie-infected sheep

1986 in British cattle

kuru

humans

through cannibalistic rituals using deceased relatives

early this century in a Papua New Guinean group called Fore

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)

humans

naturally occuring in one of every million people worldwide; mostly affects 50- to 75-year-olds

1920

new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD)

humans

most likely through eating meat products infected with BSE from cows

1994-1995 in young adults who fell ill

transmissible mink encephalopathy (TME)

mink

possibly through sheep with scrapie

first U.S. outbreak in 1947

Teacher's Guide
Brain Eater, The
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