Tuesday, 13 March, 2001, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/audiovideo/programmes/correspondent/europe/

The export bans, the slaughter of tens of thousands of cattle, the expenditure of billions of pounds of taxpayers' money - Could we have been looking for the answers in the wrong place to BSE or the human equivalent CJD?

British farmer Mark Purdey thinks we have. He believes the key lies in the environment around us - an elusive factor X which triggers the disease.

Dismissed for years by the scientific establishment as a maverick, this Somerset farmer turned scientist is now being taken more seriously. - A researcher at Cambridge university is about to publish research backing up Mark Purdey's belief that it is the balance of metals in the environment that affects the brain and could lead to the disease.


News Host:
Hello, and welcome to Correspondent's first live chat. Mark Purdey will be here to answer your questions on BSE in about five minutes. You can send your questions NOW by typing them into the box at the bottom of the page. You must press return/enter on your keyboard to send a question. This is a moderated chat which means that any duplicate questions and general hello messages will be filtered out. Try to keep your questions and/or comments as concise as possible.

Philip Orton:
I seem to remember a TV drama (James Herriot?) broadcast 8-10 years ago in which a cow had developed BSE like symptoms. Nobody had the answer until a soil analysis was done This showed very low levels of copper as the cause! Did this inspire your research?

Mark Purdey:
What got me interested in metals particularly in copper during the 1970s government laboratories had done research inducing scrapie disease in mice by injecting them with a chemical called cuprizone. This chemical caused scrapie by locking onto copper in the brain of treated animals and when I found low levels of copper in all their spongiform areas around the world I then began to feel something was going on here.

I've heard a bit about your ideas and they make a lot of sense. But BSE on an epidemic scale has only occurred in Britain. If your theory is to be proved you will have to explain why. Have you any theories or suggestions in this area?

Mark Purdey:
In Britain we were unique in using a much higher dosage of systemic OP insecticides for warbel control.  These high doses interacted with the manganese in the brains of treated cows and produced Mark Purdey highly virulent form of manganese that produces an accellerated type of free radical disease this is new variant BSE/CJD.

Can this problem be erradicated by treatment, or is it too late in your opinion?

Mark Purdey:
You might be able to arrest the disease by treating with copper providing that copper can cross the blood/brain barrier. The copper would bond with the prion protein and protect it from bonding to manganese.

Mark Studden:
Have Manganese levels in our food chain been lowered as a result of your research, or are they still so high?

Mark Purdey:
Manganese levels are increasing quite severely in the food chain. Firstly as a result of acid rain which unlocks manganese in the soil and makes it more available to plants. Secondly as a result of industry such as steel, glass, lead-free petrol production. This causes increased emissions of manganese into the atmosphere and you can breathe in this manganese in the air that goes directly through the nose and it goes straight to the brain via the olfactory lobe.

Tim Harrison:
What is it that you think gave you the drive and enthusiasm that let you research this subject in such depth?

Mark Purdey:
I have always this drive to understand the effects of toxic environmental poisons on the brain both as a nervous effect and a psychological effect. But I am also very angry at the way these chemicals are permitted to be unleashed into the food chain without any long-term concerns and I am also angry at the way that the responsible bodies have no concern for these long-term repercussions on our health.

Paul Reeler:
Does Mark Purdey think that the way meat is cooked, whether rare or well done affects whether humans catch the disease ?

Mark Purdey:
I do not think that meat has any connection at all with new variant CJD simply because the cheap cuts of meat that were blamed for causing variant CJD were exported all over the world particularly third world countries, where new variant CJD has never occurred.

Jenny Le:
Notwithstanding the manganese implication, is there still a connection with the use of organophosphates do you think?

Mark Purdey:
The organophosphates interact with manganese by acting as an oxydising agent. They change the manganese from a safe form into a highly lethal free-radical generating form so to get spongiform disease of the new variant type you would need to be simultaneously exposed to these two environmental factors. In the traditionally form of the disease one is exposed to a much weaker oxidising agent in the form of ultra violet radiation that is why traditional spongiform disease always starts in the retina in the eye and it occurs in populations that live high up in snow-covered mountains - with UV light is notoriously high.

Debbie Griffiths:
Do you or Dr brown still need funds to carry on your campaign and if so how can people contribute?

Mark Purdey:
I have a research account into which I pay my laboratory fees for analysing the various samples I draw in these spongiform cluster regions and I welcome any donations however small into my bank account.

Greame Jarvie:
Have you had any interest/response from European research authorities in the absence of this from their UK counterparts?

Mark Purdey:
I think that the UK's reluctance to research my theory is based on the fact that they compelled farmers by law to use these chemicals and a licenced feeding of manganese at dose rates which could be risky. The UK Government would therefore be admitting liability for potential damage claims should they accept that these products have a role in the cause of these diseases.

Did the report on Queniborough not specifically state that there were not high levels of manganese in the area, unlike what was shown in your tests?

Mark Purdey:
Yes this is very true. The levels of manganese are naturally low in the soils of the Quinaborough area but the point is that the surrounding farmers are spraying on a potent manganese fertiliser several times a year. There is also widespread application of sewage sludge around all the villages that have a variant CJD problem. Manganese is also at a high level in sewage and it becomes air borne during spreading operations. Villages will therefore be breathing in these various manganese substances and taking it straight into their brains via the nasal/olfactory route.

Andrej Machacek:
Mark, I come from Slovakia and the High Tatras are one of my favourite places in the world. I was very saddened by the fate of some of the locals mentioned in the programme and was wondering whether the people (e.g. those innocently drinking the pine needle tea) were informed of the outcomes of your research...

Mark Purdey:

Because of language barriers I had great difficulty in communicating but they were well aware of the fact that the trees were dying in the very villages where CJD was at high incidence and they were aware that this was being caused by the emissions from the nearby steel factories. Whilst they were aware that this was causing respiratory problems with their breathing they weren't aware of the CJD link. But Dr. Eve Matrova who was in the programme is pursuing my work with great interest and will be influencing the local vicinity to get this sorted out. I agree with you it is a beautiful area - I loved it.

Simon Blake:
What can the public do, if your theory is correct, to protect themselves right now?

Mark Purdey:
Avoid use of head lice shampoos and exposure to other forms of organophosphate insecticides. Also be a bit cautious of using mobile phones too intensively because they have an oxydising effect on the brain just like organophosphates. Also avoid living too near to industries that pollute the atmosphere with high levels of manganese such as industries that use manganese as a lead replacement in petrol etc.

Ade Webb:
How were you able to run at farm at the same time as everything else?

Mark Purdey:
It is an absolute nightmare. I always say I need to have three bodies operating simultaneously..

Mark Purdey:
Thanks for your concern!

Simon Kemp: Do you have a website where you publish your results and progress?

Mark Purdey:
I have just opened an e-mail site. markpurdey.madcow@virgin.net   and I hope to have an internet site in the near future.

News Host:
That is all we have time for. Thank you to Mark Purdey for taking the time to answer these questions. And thanks to all of you for sending them in. Sorry if your question didn't get answered - there just wasn't enough time to cover them all. You can contact Mark by email at markpurdey.madcow@virgin.net   and a full transcript of our chat with Mark Purdey will appear soon at www.bbc.co.uk/correspondent . Don't forget to keep checking our site for more live chats!