TITLE: Deadly Feasts: The Prion Controversy and the Public's Health
AUTHOR: Richard Rhodes
DATE PUBLISHED: 1998
"In this brilliant and gripping medical detective story. Richard Rhodes follows virus hunters on three continents as they track the emergence of a deadly new brain disease that first kills cannibals in New Guinea, then cattle and young people in Britain and France—and that has already been traced to food animals in the United States. In a new afterword for the paperback, Rhodes reports the latest US and worldwide developments of a burgeoning global threat. "
This is a fast paced, fascinating and informative detective story that chronologically follows the discovery and investigation of a fatal "new" brain disease that leaves people and animals with brains full of holes, plagues and looking like disintegrating sponge. There is adventure in New Guinea with cannibals, drama with sheep and strangley behaving cattle, scientists trying to find out how the disease progresses, what causes it and its methods of transmission within and between species, as well as the political shenanigans when people start dying. The tabloids would eventually call the disease "Mad Cow Disease". Links between Kuru, Jakob-Crutzfeld diseas, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and scrapie (in sheep), are made, the "prion controversy" begins and public health issues are swept under the rug. This book provides a fairly accurate description of how science gets done. The book is not without its problems, but it still made for an entertaining and thought-provoking reading session (I read it in one night).
The book was published in 1998, so is a bit dated in terms of new information, but we still do not know the exact cause, means of diagnosis or any treatment for the diseases that we did't know in 1998. In addition, the author's expected epidemic of human "Mad Cow Disease" victims didn't materialise...
PS: Being a vegetarian is not necessarily going to save you from "Mad Cow Disease".