"Until the middle of the 1980s, prions were not fully accepted as a new infectious entity by the scientific community. At that time, research on prions still remained an area of largely esoteric interest. However, as a result of the BSE crisis, prion research has gained more attention in science, medicine and agriculture and has influenced politics and economics – with an impact in more or less every field related to consumer behavior. To the public the problems became obvious through media headlines about “BSE”, “Mad Cow Disease” or “variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob-Disease”, and in the scientific community a new field of multidisciplinary research has emerged.

The perspectives on prion research are as manifold as the readership which the editors and authors would like to reach. This book addresses readers from human and veterinary medicine, the biological disciplines such as molecular biology, biochemistry and biophysics, agronomics and epidemiology – regardless of whether they are practitioners, students or work in research and education. In addition, experts from areas such as public health, governmental control agencies and the food and drug industry will also benefit from this systematic treatment.

To this end, the editors would like to express their gratitude to all authors who have contributed to this project. Most of them have been working in this field for years and are internationally renowned. Such a firm foundation helps to guarantee the scientific integrity of the presentation. The first edition of this book appeared in 2001 in German. Thanks to its wide acceptance, the editors felt prompted to work on a second edition, but this time in English – in order to reach a more international audience. Authors of the first edition updated their contributions and further authors joined the group of contributors.

Our goal was to present an extremely complex field in a language comprehensible to all. Repetitions are restricted to those parts in which new relationships are described or details expanded. We have aimed to focus on clear, definitive statements wherever possible. The book also provides information on existing gaps in our knowledge: hypotheses and assumptions are indicated as such.

We hope that this book will lead to innovative research ideas, further interdisciplinary cooperation in the research on prion diseases and effective containment of disease."

The Editors

Beat Hörnlimann, Detlev Riesner, Hans Kretzschmar

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