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A new study by UCBerkeley researchers establishes for the first time a link between infection with the bovine leukemia virus and human breast cancer.

UC Berkeley researchers have linked bovine leukemia virus, a cancer-causing virus prevalent in cattle, with human breast cancer.

In the study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE and available online , researchers analyzed breast tissue from 239 women for the presence of bovine leukemia virus (BLV), comparing samples from women who had breast cancer with women who had no history of the disease. They found that 59 percent of breast cancer samples had evidence of exposure to BLV, as determined by the presence of viral DNA. Bycontrast, 29 percent of the tissue samples from women who never had breast cancer showed exposure to BLV.

“The association between BLV infection and breast cancer was surprising to many previous reviewers of the study, but it’s important to note that our results do not prove that the virus causes cancer,” said study lead author Gertrude Buehring, a professor of virology in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. “However, this is the most important first step. We still need to confirm that the infection with the virus happened before, not after, breast cancer developed, and if so, how.”

Bovine leukemia virus infects dairy and beef cattle’s blood cells and mammary tissue. The retrovirus is easily transmitted among cattle primarily through infected blood and milk, but it only causes disease in fewerthan 5 percent of infected animals.

A 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey of bulk milk tanks found that 100 percent of dairy operations with large herds of 500 or more cows tested positive for BLV antibodies. This may not be surprising since milk from one infected cow is mixed in with others. Even dairy operations with small herds offewer than 100 cows tested positive for BLV 83 percent of the time.

What had been unclear until recently is whether the virus could be found in humans, something that was confirmed in a study led by Buehring and published last year in Emerging Infectious Diseases . That paper overturned a long-held belief that the virus could not be transmitted to humans.

“Studies done in the 1970s failed to detect evidence of human infection with BLV,” said Buehring. “The tests we have now are more sensitive, but it was still hard to overturn the established dogma that BLV was not transmissible to humans. As a result, there has been little incentive for the cattle industry to set up procedures to contain the spread of the virus.”


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Past Imperfect presents concise critical overviews of the latest research by the world’s leading scholars. Subjects cross the full range of fields in the period ca. 400-1500 CE which, in a European context, is known as the Middle Ages. Anyone interested in this period will be enthralled and enlightened by these overviews, written in provocative but accessible language. These affordable paperbacks prove that the era still retains a powerful resonance and impact throughout the world today.

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Medieval Europe, Global Studies, Middle Eastern and Islamic History

ca. 400-1500CE

The readership of these short, affordable books comprises principally fellow scholars in late antique, medieval, and early modern studies as a whole (but authors should not assume that they are specialists in the specific topic) and postgraduate and undergraduate students. Additionally we aspire to reach the wider educated public through making the book easily available on various national Amazon online stores. The books should be written in a scholarly idiom, but one that is accessible to these different audiences.

This brand of compact volumes is developed through personal invitation of specialists capable of writing a concise, short monograph in the “edgy” style described below. The invitation is based on the press’s research into suitable scholars who are already established authorities in the field. Notwithstanding, all submitted manuscripts are subject to peer review from an independent expert chosen by the press. The peer review questionnaire is modified from the press’s standard form, to reflect the particular demands of this type of publication.

For more information on preparing a volume for this series see the guidance page .

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James T. Palmer (University of St. Andrews), Kriston R. Rennie (University of Queensland), Rodrigo Laham Cohen (University of Buenos Aries), Julianna Grigg (Monash, Vic.), Matthew Cheung Salisbury (University of Oxford), Jamie Wood (University of Lincoln), Anthony Kaldellis (Ohio State University), Alice Isabella Sullivan (University of Michigan), Christine Danielle Baker (Indiana University of Pennsylvania,), Camilo Gómez-Rivas (University of California, Santa Cruz), Timothy Michael May (University of North Georgia), Marika Mägi (Tallinn University), Marilyn Dunn (University of Glasgow, School of Humanities), Katalin Szende (CEU, Budapest), Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen (Pacific Lutheran University), Scott Gordon Bruce (University of Colorado at Boulder), Catherine A. M. Clarke (University of Southampton, Department of English), Anne E. Lester (University of Colorado Boulder), Dorothy Kim (Vassar College), Scott John McDonough (William Paterson University), Martin J. Ryan (University of Manchester), Peter Webb (Leiden University), John Eldevik (Hamilton College), Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide (University of Bergen) and Kevin John Edwards (University of Aberdeen), Ana Rodríguez (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas), Alicia Spencer-Hall (Queen Mary, University of London), Ema Petrovic Miljkovic (University of Niš), David Álvarez Jiménez (Universidad Internacional de La Rioja), Marica Cassis (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Annie Montgomery Labatt (University of Texas at San Antonio), Francois Soyer (University of Southampton), Sarah Davis-Secord (University of New Mexico, History), Jan Cemper-Kiesslich (University of Salzburg), Anna Linden Weller (Uppsala University), Leonora Neville (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Alex Mallett (Waseda University), Madi Williams (University of Canterbury), Klaus Peter Oschema (University of Bochum), Stephen E. Lahey (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), Darlene Lynn Brooks Hedstrom (Wittenberg University), Helen Jane Nicholson (Cardiff University), Youval Rotman (Tel Aviv University), Hyun Jin Kim (University of Melbourne),

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