LEUKEMIA? LYMPHOMA? THIS MAY BE THE WORST--BRACE YOURSELF!
I hate to tell you this, but the bovine leukemia virus
is found in more than three of five dairy cows in the United States! This
involves about 80% of dairy herds. Unfortunately, when the milk is pooled,
a very large percentage of all milk produced is contaminated (90 to 95 per
cent). Of course the virus is killed in pasteurisation--if the
pasteurisation was done correctly. What if the milk is raw? In a study of
randomly collected raw milk samples the bovine leukemia virus was
recovered from two-thirds. I sincerely hope that the raw milk dairy herds
are carefully monitored when compared to the regular herds. (Science 1981;
This is a world-wide problem. One lengthy study from
Germany deplored the problem and admitted the impossibility of keeping the
virus from infected cows' milk from the rest of the milk. Several European
countries, including Germany and Switzerland, have attempted to "cull" the
infected cows from their herds. Certainly the United States must be the
leader in the fight against leukemic dairy cows, right? Wrong! We are the
worst in the world with the former exception of Venezuela according to
Virgil Hulse MD, a milk specialist who also has a B.S. in Dairy
Manufacturing as well as a Master's degree in Public Health.
As mentioned, the leukemia virus is rendered inactive by
pasteurisation. Of course. However, there can be Chernobyl like accidents.
One of these occurred in the Chicago area in April, 1985. At a modern,
large, milk processing plant an accidental "cross connection" between raw
and pasteurised milk occurred. A violent salmonella outbreak followed,
killing 4 and making an estimated 150,000 ill. Now the question I would
pose to the dairy industry people is this: "How can you assure the people
who drank this milk that they were not exposed to the ingestion of raw,
unkilled, bully active bovine leukemia viruses?" Further, it would be
fascinating to know if a "cluster" of leukemia cases blossoms in that area
in 1 to 3 decades. There are reports of "leukemia clusters" elsewhere, one
of them mentioned in the June 10, 1990 San Francisco Chronicle involving
What happens to other species of mammals when they are
exposed to the bovine leukemia virus? It's a fair question and the answer
is not reassuring. Virtually all animals exposed to the virus develop
leukemia. This includes sheep, goats, and even primates such as rhesus
monkeys and chimpanzees. The route of transmission includes ingestion
(both intravenous and intramuscular) and cells present in milk. There are
obviously no instances of transfer attempts to human beings, but we know
that the virus can infect human cells in vitro. There is evidence of human
antibody formation to the bovine leukemia virus; this is disturbing. How
did the bovine leukemia virus particles gain access to humans and become
antigens? Was it as small, denatured particles?
If the bovine leukemia viruses causes human leukemia, we
could expect the dairy states with known leukemic herds to have a higher
incidence of human leukemia. Is this so? Unfortunately, it seems to be the
case! Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin have
statistically higher incidence of leukemia than the national average. In
Russia and in Sweden, areas with uncontrolled bovine leukemia virus have
been linked with increases in human leukemia. I am also told that
veterinarians have higher rates of leukemia than the general public. Dairy
farmers have significantly elevated leukemia rates. Recent research shows
lymphocytes from milk fed to neonatal mammals gains access to bodily
tissues by passing directly through the intestinal wall.
An optimistic note from the University of Illinois,
Ubana from the Department of Animal Sciences shows the importance of one's
perspective. Since they are concerned with the economics of milk and not
primarily the health aspects, they noted that the production of milk was
greater in the cows with the bovine leukemia virus. However when the
leukemia produced a persistent and significant lymphocytosis (increased
white blood cell count), the production fell off. They suggested "…a need
to re-evaluate the economic impact of bovine leukemia virus infection on
the dairy industry". Does this mean that leukemia is good for profits only
if we can keep it under control? You can get the details on this business
concern from Proc. Nat. Acad. Sciences, U.S. Feb. 1989. I added emphasis
and am insulted that a university department feels that this is an
economic and not a human health issue. Do not expect help from the
Department of Agriculture or the universities. The money stakes and the
political pressures are too great. You're on you own.
What does this all mean? We know that virus is capable
of producing leukemia in other animals. Is it proven that it can
contribute to human leukemia (or lymphoma, a related cancer)? Several
articles tackle this one:
1."Epidemiologic Relationships of the Bovine Population
and Human Leukemia in Iowa". Am Journal of Epidemiology 112 (1980): 80
2."Milk of Dairy Cows Frequently Contains a Leukemogenic
Virus". Science 213 (1981): 1014 3."Beware of the Cow". (Editorial) Lancet
4."Is Bovine Milk A Health Hazard?". Pediatrics; Suppl.
Feeding the Normal Infant. 75:182-186; 1985
In Norway, 1422 individuals were followed for 11 and a
half years. Those drinking 2 or more glasses of milk per day had 3.5 times
the incidence of cancer of the lymphatic organs. British Med. Journal
61:456-9, March 1990.
One of the more thoughtful articles on this subject is
from Allan S. Cunningham of Cooperstown, New York. Writing in the Lancet,
November 27, 1976 (page 1184), his article is entitled, "Lymphomas and
Animal-Protein Consumption". Many people think of milk as "liquid meat"
and Dr. Cunningham agrees with this. He tracked the beef and dairy
consumption in terms of grams per day for a one year period, 1955-1956.,
in 15 countries . New Zealand, United States and Canada were highest in
that order. The lowest was Japan followed by Yugoslavia and France. The
difference between the highest and lowest was quite pronounced: 43.8
grams/day for New Zealanders versus 1.5 for Japan. Nearly a 30-fold
difference! (Parenthetically, the last 36 years have seen a startling
increase in the amount of beef and milk used in Japan and their disease
patterns are reflecting this, confirming the lack of "genetic protection"
seen in migration studies. Formerly the increase in frequency of lymphomas
in Japanese people was only in those who moved to the USA)!
An interesting bit of trivia is to note the memorial
built at the Gyokusenji Temple in Shimoda, Japan. This marked the spot
where the first cow was killed in Japan for human consumption! The chains
around this memorial were a gift from the US Navy. Where do you suppose
the Japanese got the idea to eat beef? The year? 1930.
Cunningham found a highly significant positive
correlation between deaths from lymphomas and beef and dairy ingestion in
the 15 countries analysed. A few quotations from his article follow:
The average intake of protein in many countries is far
in excess of the recommended requirements. Excessive consumption of animal
protein may be one co-factor in the causation of lymphomas by acting in
the following manner. Ingestion of certain proteins results in the
adsorption of antigenic fragments through the gastrointestinal mucous
This results in chronic stimulation of lymphoid tissue
to which these fragments gain access…Chronic immunological stimulation
causes lymphomas in laboratory animals and is believed to cause lymphoid
cancers in men…The gastrointestinal mucous membrane is only a partial
barrier to the absorption of food antigens, and circulating antibodies to
food protein is commonplace especially potent lymphoid stimulants.
Ingestion of cows' milk can produce generalized lymphadenopathy,
hepatosplenomegaly, and profound adenoid hypertrophy. It has been
conservatively estimated that more than 100 distinct antigens are released
by the normal digestion of cows' milk which evoke production of all
antibody classes [This may explain why pasteurized, killed viruses are
still antigenic and can still cause disease.
Here's more. A large prospective study from Norway was
reported in the British Journal of Cancer 61 (3):456-9, March 1990.
(Almost 16,000 individuals were followed for 11 and a half years). For
most cancers there was no association between the tumour and milk
ingestion. However, in lymphoma, there was a strong positive association.
If one drank two glasses or more daily (or the equivalent in dairy
products), the odds were 3.4 times greater than in persons drinking less
than one glass of developing a lymphoma.
There are two other cow-related diseases that you should
be aware of. At this time they are not known to be spread by the use of
dairy products and are not known to involve man. The first is bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and the second is the bovine
immunodeficiency virus (BIV). The first of these diseases, we hope, is
confined to England and causes cavities in the animal's brain. Sheep have
long been known to suffer from a disease called scrapie. It seems to have
been started by the feeding of contaminated sheep parts, especially
brains, to the British cows. Now, use your good sense. Do cows seem like
carnivores? Should they eat meat? This profit-motivated practice backfired
and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease, swept Britain.
The disease literally causes dementia in the unfortunate animal and is 100
per cent incurable. To date, over 100,000 cows have been incinerated in
England in keeping with British law. Four hundred to 500 cows are reported
as infected each month. The British public is concerned and has dropped
its beef consumption by 25 per cent, while some 2,000 schools have stopped
serving beef to children. Several farmers have developed a fatal disease
syndrome that resembles both BSE and CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease). But
the British Veterinary Association says that transmission of BSE to humans
The USDA agrees that the British epidemic was due to the
feeding of cattle with bonemeal or animal protein produced at rendering
plants from the carcasses of scrapie-infected sheep. The have prohibited
the importation of live cattle and zoo ruminants from Great Britain and
claim that the disease does not exist in the United States. However, there
may be a problem. "Downer cows" are animals who arrive at auction yards or
slaughter houses dead, trampled, lacerated, dehydrated, or too ill from
viral or bacterial diseases to walk. Thus they are "down." If they cannot
respond to electrical shocks by walking, they are dragged by chains to
dumpsters and transported to rendering plants where, if they are not
already dead, they are killed. Even a "humane" death is usually denied
them. They are then turned into protein food for animals as well as other
preparations. Minks that have been fed this protein have developed a fatal
encephalopathy that has some resemblance to BSE. Entire colonies of minks
have been lost in this manner, particularly in Wisconsin. It is feared
that the infective agent is a prion or slow virus possible obtained from
the ill "downer cows."
The British Medical Journal in an editorial whimsically
entitled "How Now Mad Cow?" (BMJ vol. 304, 11 Apr. 1992:929-30) describes
cases of BSE in species not previously known to be affected, such as cats.
They admit that produce contaminated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy
entered the human food chain in England between 1986 and 1989. They say.
"The result of this experiment is awaited." As the incubation period can
be up to three decades, wait we must.
The immunodeficency virus is seen in cattle in the
United States and is more worrisome. Its structure is closely related to
that of the human AIDS virus. At this time we do not know if exposure to
the raw BIV proteins can cause the sera of humans to become positive for
HIV. The extent of the virus among American herds is said to be
"widespread". (The USDA refuses to inspect the meat and milk to see if
antibodies to this retrovirus is present). It also has no plans to
quarantine the infected animals. As in the case of humans with AIDS, there
is no cure for BIV in cows. Each day we consume beef and diary products
from cows infected with these viruses and no scientific assurance exists
that the products are safe. Eating raw beef (as in steak Tartare) strikes
me as being very risky, especially after the Seattle E. coli deaths of
A report in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research
, October 1992, Vol. 56 pp.353-359 and another from the Russian
literature, tell of a horrifying development. They report the first
detection in human serum of the antibody to a bovine immunodeficiency
virus protein. In addition to this disturbing report, is another from
Russia telling us of the presence of virus proteins related to the bovine
leukemia virus in 5 of 89 women with breast disease (Acta Virologica Feb.
1990 34(1): 19-26). The implications of these developments are unknown at
present. However, it is safe to assume that these animal viruses are
unlikely to "stay" in the animal kingdom.
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