Japan’s health ministry has said that an eighth case of mad cow disease has been discovered in the country and there are concerns that it may be a new strain of the disease.


A 23-month old bullock was found to be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, bringing the number of confirmed cases of the disease in the country to eight. The animal was born in October 2001, the same month Japan banned meat-and-bone meal, which was considered to be the main cause of infection, reported Agence France-Presse.


The discovery also raised concerns over the country’s system of testing for the disease.


“We barely caught it,” Health Minister Chikara Sakaguchi was quoted by AFP as saying. “I want the ministry to study whether this new type of BSE will be completely picked up by our current testing system.” 


Japanese officials said the animal was the youngest confirmed BSE case so far in Japan, although a European Commissions spokesman said it was not the youngest case ever recorded worldwide. The UK reported a case of BSE in an animal 20 months old in 1992, she said.


“We must discuss whether this infection route was different than it has been up until now,” Sakaguchi said.


Japan, which reported its first case of BSE in September 2001, has not reported a case since January, AFP reported.