29 March 1996

CJDone in a million…

INCIDENCE of the brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the UK is under one case in a million people (40 cases a year) – a figure no higher than any other country.

Responding to consumer concerns, a MAFF spokesman said that fears of a CJD epidemic were not borne out by statistics as CJD cases this year were slightly down.

About 85% of CJD is sporadic throughout the population with no common link. Four dairy famrers have died of sporadic CJD since 1988. Most other CJD cases are due to genetic susceptibility.

Fears surrounding the survivability of BSE pathogen in soil are based on scrapie experiments where diseased brain tissue was buried in soil and three years later introduced to brain tissue of mice.

"The infectivity of the pathogen was reduced by 99% and BSE has never been located in peripheral fluids so concerns over pasture contamination have no foundation," said the spokesman.

Speculation that the pathogen could be present in nervous tissue within meat is also not backed up by scientific fact.

"Once present in the brain the disease spreads outward through nervous tissues. Clinical symptoms would be apparent well before the pathogen appeared in the peripheral nervous system," he said.