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Utah Company Developing Mad Cow Disease Detector

Utah Company Developing Mad Cow Disease Detector

Posted - Oct. 10, 2004 at 10:00 p.m.



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Ed Yeates ReportingThe U.S. is being pressured to find new technologies to track and detect the very early signs of so-called Mad Cow Disease in animals. A Utah high tech company is already moving in that direction.

With bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease now identified in the U.S., the Government wants researchers to come up with better ways of tracking, not just sampling every single animal from birth to death.

Tali Haleau, CEO, Colt Technologies: “We have to protect our food supplies so tracking the historical information of the animal from birth to slaughter is critical at this point.”

Utah based Colt Technologies is now testing a device that could do just that. With a solar powered receiving unit on the rancher’s property an ear monitor would keep track of each animal. But even more, the device might also be able to measure precise changes in temperature, the first signs of sickness.

With transmitters inside the ears of these animals, here's how it would work. Once a day, a signal would come back to the rancher from the animal - I'm okay, I'm okay. But if the animal showed any signs of sickness, that signal would come back every thirty seconds. I'm sick. I'm sick. Come get me.

Michael Stamm, BSE Research, Zurich Holding Company: “You can remove the infected cow and get him out of the herd and no longer have the tremendous risk of having BSE mature in the cow, so that it’s transmitted into humans.”

The Utah group has also partnered with another company in Zurich, Switzerland to develop yet another technology to diagnose BSE immediately in living cows.

Michael Stamm: “Our device will be able to do it within a matter of seconds and operated by just about anyone.”

The device is still being tested in a lab in Zurich. Once developed, protein samples would be taken from a live animal's lymph nodes and fed into a microwave scanner that could immediately read the disease's signature.

Researchers hope to have a prototype scanner ready within nine months and ready for market within a year. A similar scanner might be adapted to identify other diseases like avian influenza or bird flu and swine flu.

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