New study resurrects BSE fear

21 December 1999

New study resurrects BSE fear

By FWi staff

SCIENTISTS have found the most compelling evidence yet that BSE can be transferred to humans, resurrecting fears that millions could die from the disease.

Although it has always been assumed that BSE could affect humans, until now the link has been hypothesised without any conclusive proof being found.

But researchers in the USA and Britain have finally shown that BSE is caused by the same infectious agent as new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans.

The discovery, claim the scientists, raises “greater concern that a large section of the United Kingdom population may be at considerable risk” from nvCJD.

Researchers from the University of California and the CJD Surveillance Unit at Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, established the link using mice.

The results, are reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggest that BSE and CJD are the same disease.

It is not known how many people may be at risk, because the mice were modified to eliminate the species barrier to the transmission of the agent.

The ultimate number of CJD cases will be determined by the number of people who ate contaminated beef during the BSE crisis.

So far, 48 British cases of nvCJD have been reported. But the chairman of the inquiry into BSE has warned that the number could be “the tip of an iceberg”.

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