28 April 2000
3000 tests show no sign of nvCJD
By FWi staff
SCIENTISTS have reported finding no evidence of the human form of BSE in 3000 specimens of human tissue.
The chief medical officer for England and Wales welcomed the news that new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease had not been detected, but warned against reading too much into the results.
Professor Liam Donaldson said the sample was too small and there were too many unknown factors about nvCJD for the results to be taken as an indication of an “all-clear”.
Scientists in the West Country and Scotland are in the process of testing 18,000 samples, from tonsils and appendices removed in operations, for signs of the incurable brain disease linked to BSE.
The rogue prion protein believed to be behind nvCJD has in the past been found in the tonsils and appendices.
Researchers reported that no evidence of nvCJD was found in the first 3000 samples.
“This does not takes us further forward. We have to rely on the very wide estimates that scientists have already made,” Prof Donaldson told BBC Online.
“It will be very many years before we can tie it down with any certainty.”
He added: “This is the best we can do at the present time.
“There are a number of Holy Grails on this, but one of them would be to have a valid diagnostic test, both on the animal and the human health sides.
“Weve got a little piece in a very large jigsaw puzzle.”
The results of the whole survey are expected to be known by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the government has announced a programme to find new live animal tests for BSE in cattle and scrapie in sheep.
Researchers are invited to compete for a share of an extra 5 million of work next year.