6 October 1995

CJbrain disease:

Clerics &cabbies are most at risk

By Liz Mason

VICARS and cab drivers have a higher risk of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob brain disease (CJD) than farmers, medical experts have found.

Their analysis of patients occupation when diagnosed as suffering from CJD "demonstrates a higher relative risk in some groups, including professional drivers and vicars".

The experts, from Edinburgh CJD surveillance unit and Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, also reported a third CJD case in a 54-year-old dairy farmer who had worked with BSE affected cattle.

In a letter to the medical journal The Lancet, they said the case was "clearly a matter of concern". But no cases had been identified since 1990 in abattoir workers, butchers or vets, who in theory were most at risk.

They added that "a case-control study has not shown an increased risk in relation to any occupation, including farming".

An EU-funded review, prompted by the third UK case, also reports that UK farmers are at no greater risk than those in other EU countries. "Evidence from the EC surveillance project suggests that there is no differential increase in the risk of CJD to farmers in the UK through potential occupational contact with cases of BSE," said the EU experts in a second letter to The Lancet.

They reported five cases of CJD in French farmers, two in Germany and three in Italy. Their review also found a similar overall incidence of CJD in five EU countries, including the UK, despite marked differences in national BSE incidence.