3 May 1996

Scientists look at CJD theory

LEADING neurologists from across Europe are to hold a two-day conference in Edinburgh, beginning today (Friday), to discuss the discovery of a new strain of the human brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD).

The conference at the CJD surveillance unit will look at the new cases of CJD discovered by scientists in recent months, and will study the theory that they could be related to BSE.

Partly funded by the EU, the conference is the first of two planned this spring to discuss the variability of the disease.

The EU has called for a better co-ordinated research programme on BSE, and will hold a meeting in Brussels of director-generals of national research ministries at the end of May.

Edith Cresson, commissioner responsible for research, said recent meetings had shown there was a need to strengthen research work on EU surveillance and geographical distribution of transmissible animal and human encephalopathies.

UK farm minister, Douglas Hogg, told MPs last week that he was certain there was a much higher level of BSE on the mainland of Europe than had been officially disclosed.

"There has been a substantial number of undeclared cases on the mainland of Europe," he added.

The EU also wants to see more research on the agents and mechanisms involved in the pathological processes, and on therapeutic possibilities for established prion diseases.

So far, the EU has spent more than £3.4m on BSE research since 1981. But scientists fear too much work has been duplicated. &#42