A research group based in Japan has announced that it has developed a new means for detecting the abnormal prion protein that causes BSE and its human equivalent vCJD.

Led by Professor Tetsuyuki Kitamoto, from Tohoku University’s Department of Neurological Science, and Professor Shiro Mori, from Kyshu University’s Medical Department, the group commented that the new test, which involves the inspection of spinal fluid, is a thousand times more sensitive than conventional inspection methods.

Importantly, the new test can be performed on live cows as it does not require samples of brain tissue.

Reporting on the breakthrough, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said that the test has the potential to identify vCJD in its early stages in humans. It could also be used to guarantee the safety of medical and cosmetic products containing bovine parts.