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CJD still a risk to the UK

27th March 2006

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (vCJD) disease, the human form of BSE, may still pose a "significant public health issue", a report published in today's Lancet Neurology journal claims.

Medical scientists from the University of Edinburgh found that a reduced 'barrier' preventing human-to-human infection, combined with a longer incubation period for the disease, heightened the risk of vCJD among UK citizens.

Analysis was carried out on genetically altered mice by Professor Jean Manson and his team, which found that blood transfusion was the most dangerous means by which the disease could be transmitted.

Approximately 40 per cent of Caucasian humans have the MM gene variation, which puts them at the greatest vulnerability to human-to-human transmission.

"Transmission of BSE to human beings is probably restricted by the presence of a significant species barrier," the report observed.

"However, there seems to be a substantially reduced barrier for human-to-human transmission of vCJD."

The report added: "All individuals could be susceptible to secondary transmission of vCJD through routes such as blood transfusion."

There have only been 190 cases of the fatal disease reported around the world.