At team of scientists at the Hadassah-Hebrew University Hospital in Jerusalem reported, in an article just published by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, a discovery connected with the "mad cow disease in animals and its human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The discovery is related to prion - a protein particle - responsible for the fatal disease in animals and humans that can now be detected in urine.

The research team, headed by Dr Ruth Gabizon of the neurology department at the University Hospital, showed that the disease can be identified even before symptoms appear. "This means that blood donations by human carriers can be prevented, and millions of unaffected cows will be saved from wholesale slaughter," as reported in the Jerusalem Post. Dr Gabizon and her team are in the final stages of establishing a Jerusalem start-up under the auspices of Hadassah's research and development arm "Hadassit," to produce a commercial kit for testing animal and human urine.

The report says that so far, BSE has been easily diagnosed using urine taken from 50 British cows diagnosed with BSE and sent to Israel, along with samples from healthy cows, sent to Israel by the Veterinary Laboratory Agency. Dr Gabizon was quoted as saying that  "in the blind test, we quickly picked out the affected animals."

Since the discovery of the BSE disease in England in 1985, millions of cows have been destroyed in England and in some other European countries, "nearly wiping out their cattle-raising industry."

By Aaron Priel, correspondent