CJD and BSE (repost)

Pat Bermingham PATB at adflex.demon.co.uk
Sun Mar 31 07:16:57 EST 1996

In article <4itk0q$lo9 at clus2.ulcc.ac.uk>, Dave Curtis
<dcurtis at hgmp.mrc.ac.uk> writes
>Till today, the mainstream British scientific opinion has been that
>there could possibly be a relationship but on balance one couldn't say
>one way or the other. The British Medical Journal recently published a
>number of opinions and it was clear there was no consensus, nor a
>basis for one. However suddenly today we hear that ten cases of CJD
>were "probably" related to BSE.  If there can be an aetiological
>relationship then that's pretty important - one scientist was
>presenting the view that these would be cases from right the start of
>the BSE epidemic, when very few cows were infected. He said there
>could be as many as a million cases, which I suppose is theoretically
>possible but sounds pretty unlikely to me. Are we seeing the start of
>a major epidemic (pandemic?)? The AIDS of the next millenium?
>Dave Curtis

As I understand it, the basis for this aetiological relationship is the
discovery of a new form of CJD, with a diverse pathology, and one that
is expressed in younger patients than the "traditional" variant. 

A critical question, it seems to me, is whether BSE and other prion
diseases are restricted to the CNS. Since the spinal cord and brain have
been removed from the animal carcasses at the abertoire since the first
cases of BSE were discovered, then infected tissue is unlikely to have
been consumed since that time. If the disease is also present in the PNS
however, then the problem may be more serious. I'd be interested to know
if someone could give an answer to that one.

Obviously the second major question is that of dosages - the current
opinion seems to be that you need to have eaten a hell of a lot of
infected beef to be vulnerable to the disease, but I know of no data on
this issue. The estimates are based on rodent data.

As for epidemic I think the major epidemic we should be worried about is
that of PSE (Press Scare-iform Exaggeropathy or Mad Reporter's
Disease!). If I'm gonna get the disease then I have it already, since
the really unsafe stuff was consumed in the mid-80's  - there's
absolutely no point in worrying about the beef NOW, given that all the
safety measures imagineable are in place. If anything I should think
that food producers are so concerned about the condition of British
beef that its probably the SAFEST beef to eat!
Pat Bermingham

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