New BSE-like disease found in cheetah

A cheetah at a zoo in Nuremberg has died after contracting an illness similar to mad cow disease, becoming the first confirmed case in Germany of feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE), city authorities said today.

Lulu, a female cheetah born in 1998, had suffered for six weeks from problems that included trouble balancing and weakness in her hind legs, the Nuremberg city government said in a statement.

The animal eventually was put to sleep, and tests by Bavarian and federal labs were positive for FSE, it added.

It was unclear how and when Lulu became infected with the disease, which has a several-year incubation period, but Nuremberg authorities said it likely happened in the Netherlands, where she was born.

Lulu moved to Germany at the age of 15 months, returned to the Netherlands five years later and arrived at the Nuremberg zoo in March 2006.

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