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A Kagoshima University research team has discovered a new enzyme that is capable of breaking down a protein particle believed to be the transmitter of mad cow disease, university sources said Saturday.

The enzyme is more powerful and effective than one found last November by a research team led by the National Institute of Animal Health and Meiji Seika Kaisha Ltd., the sources said.

The results will be presented at a symposium to be organized by the university on Friday, they said.

“The new enzyme is effective in sterilizing meat-and-bone meal and disinfecting devices used in slaughterhouses,” Tatsuzo Oka, a professor at Kagoshima University, said, referring to feed made of slaughtered animals that is believed to be a route of infection for the disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Oka said that after he introduced the protein particle, an abnormal prion extracted from humans and sheep, to a solution of the new enzyme and left it for 30 minutes at 37 C, the prion could no longer be detected.

The new enzyme was created using a type of actinomycete, bacteria used for making antibiotics, Oka said.

It took about an hour at a temperature of 40 C for the enzyme discovered in November — which was made from bacteria of fermented soybeans — to achieve the same outcome, the professor said.

The research group, formed by scholars from five different departments at Kagoshima University, was set up in October 2001.

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