Infectious Agents in Bovine Red Meat and Milk and Their Potential Role in Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases

Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2017:407:83-116. doi: 10.1007/82_2017_3.


Red meat and dairy products have frequently been suggested to represent risk factors for certain cancers, chronic neurodegenerative diseases, and autoimmune and cardiovascular disorders. This review summarizes the evidence and investigates the possible involvement of infectious factors in these diseases. The isolation of small circular single-stranded DNA molecules from serum and dairy products of Eurasian Aurochs (Bos taurus)-derived cattle, obviously persisting as episomes in infected cells, provides the basis for further investigations. Gene expression of these agents in human cells has been demonstrated, and frequent infection of humans is implicated by the detection of antibodies in a high percentage of healthy individuals. Epidemiological observations suggest their relationship to the development multiple sclerosis, to heterophile antibodies, and to N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) containing cell surface receptors.

Keywords: Bovine zoonoses; Colon cancer; Hodgkin‘s disease; Multiple sclerosis; N-glycolylneuraminic acid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Cattle
  • Chronic Disease*
  • DNA, Circular / analysis
  • DNA, Circular / blood
  • Humans
  • Milk / microbiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / microbiology
  • Neoplasms / microbiology*
  • Plasmids / analysis
  • Plasmids / blood
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / chemistry
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Red Meat / microbiology*


  • Antibodies
  • DNA, Circular
  • Receptors, Cell Surface