BseReview.org.uk What is BSE? The acronym BSE stands for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and is more commonly known as Mad-Cow Disease or MCD. BSE is a fatal neurodegenerative disease found in cattle, which causes the brain and spinal cord to degenerate and become ‘spongy.’ At a microscopic level, infected brain tissue appears to be pocketed with holes, which gives it the sponge-like appearance from which the name originates. Because BSE has a long incubation period (usually about four years) it can take a long time for the infection to become apparent. All breeds of cattle are equally susceptible to the disease.