wave' of mad cow disease could hit Britain, scientists warn
Source of Article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/3658886/Second-wave-of-mad-cow-disease-could-hit-Britain-scientists-warn.html
A "second wave" of the incurable human form
of mad cow disease could hit Britain
causing greater numbers of deaths, a new study has warned.
By Kate Devlin Medical
Last Updated: 6:34PM GMT 07 Dec 2008
extent of the outbreak of the deadly variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) has not yet been realised,
wave could take the form of a "tidal wave or an imperceptible
ripple", they warn.
167 people have died from vCJD in Britain since
it was first diagnosed in the mid-1990s.
scientists warn that thousands of people could still go on to develop the
disease because of the length of time it can remain in the body with no
this year scientists warned that up to one in 4,000 people in Britain could
carry the infection, although the vast majority of them would never go on to
develop the full blown disease.
results of the new study show that the disease is affected by genetic factors
individual make-up of a patient could increase the amount of time that the infection, commonly contracted through eating infected
meat or though a blood transfusion, lies low before symptoms develop, they
research shows that it is an individual's DNA which controls if and when the
disease will manifest itself.
also identifies some but not all of the common patterns which can signpost if
a person is likely to go on to develop the incurable disease.
research, the findings of which are published in the journal Lancet
Neurology, analysed DNA samples from all the
British patients who have died from the disease and compared them with
samples from healthy blood donors.
authors of the study, led by Dr Simon Mead, from University College London,
say that the research suggests that genetic predisposition "has
contributed significantly to the outbreak of vCJD
in the same journal Hans Kretzschmar and Thomas Illig, from the Ludwig–Maximillians University
and the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich, call for more investigation into
the influence of specific genes.
second wave of CJD with a longer incubation time might hit these shores, but
we do not know whether this will be a tidal wave or just an imperceptible
ripple," they warn.
ever blood test for variant CJD is currently undergoing clinical trials.
Scientists believe that it could be available within 18 months and could be
used to screen blood transfusions for the infection.
spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We understand the uncertainties
about whether there will be a secondary wave of vCJD
cases which reinforce the need for the UK
to maintain effective surveillance of CJD through the National CJD
Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh
and to fund research studies to ascertain the sub-clinical prevalence of vCJD in the population.
will obviously examine the findings of this research carefully.
government remains committed to providing resources for CJD surveillance and