- A POTENTIAL link has been found between the human form
of "mad cow" disease and a batch of polio vaccine given to as
many as 80,000 people.
- Scientists have established that in 1994 two teenagers
who later developed the fatal brain condition variant Creutzfeldt Jakob
disease (vCJD) received an oral polio vaccine containing British cattle
material from the same batch. The victims have not been identified.
- Drug companies were advised in 1989 that they should
not use bovine material from Britain or any other country with BSE-infected
herds, but a loophole emerged because the guidelines from the Department
of Health applied only to injectable vaccines. Oral polio vaccines using
British cattle products continued to be manufactured and distributed.
- It was only last year when the Government formally withdrew
them as a precautionary measure. Health advisers on the Government's Spongiform
Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) last night emphasised that there
was no causal link between the victims having the vaccine and contracting
the disease and that it could be coincidental.
- They also told parents that they should not withdraw
their children from the polio vaccination programme. The Department of
Health made it clear that bovine material in vaccines today comes from
Australia, New Zealand, the United States or Canada.
- Deirdre Cunningham, a member of SEAC and director of
public health in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, said: "There is
absolutely no justification for ruining the vaccination and immunisation
programme." The programme has virtually eliminated polio from Britain.
- The coincidental link was revealed when scientists from
the national CJD surveillance unit in Edinburgh examined possible connections
between five vCJD victims from the Southampton area. Medical records showed
that two had received oral polio vaccine from the same batch in 1994 when
they were teenagers. One was a school-leaver and the other about to go
- Most people receive the polio vaccines as babies with
a follow-up pre-school booster at about the age of four. It is also offered
to school-leavers and adults travelling overseas.
- The batch of up to 80,000 doses was available for a three-month
period from October to the end of December in 1994 and was distributed
throughout the country. The batch was part of six million identical doses
that were available in a two-year period from 1994. No other of the 113
vCJD victims received the vaccine from this batch.
- Frances Hall, spokeswoman of the Human BSE Foundation,
said: "This possible link with vaccine must be investigated very closely.
Who knows if it is a coincidence or not?"
- Some Scientists Say Polio Vaccines Not Linked
- LONDON (Reuters) - British scientists researching the
human form of mad cow disease ruled out polio vaccinations as a source
of infection on Monday after checking two patients who had gotten vaccines
from the same batch.
- "The committee do not in any way think there was
a link to the vaccine,'' Peter Smith, chairman of the government's advisory
committee on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), told a news conference
- Researchers looked into the vaccine when investigating
factors held in common by patients with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
(vCJD), the fatal brain-wasting condition believed to be linked to BSE-tainted
- The two patients were linked by a batch of standard-issue
polio vaccine. The possibility of infection through bovine calf serum used
in the vaccines prompted further investigations.
- But scientists found that those given vaccine made using
UK-sourced cattle products were no more likely to develop vCJD than those
treated with vaccines that did not contain bovine material from Britain.
- Variant CJD has killed more than 100 people in the UK
since doctors distinguished it as a new form of the rare brain-wasting
disease CJD in 1996.
- Both CJD and BSE are believed to be caused by rogue forms
of prion proteins, molecules found in nerve cells.
- Many scientists believe humans can get vCJD from eating
BSE-infected meat, and research has found that prions from vCJD patients
and cattle infected with mad cow disease have similar protein fingerprints,
which at the same time differ from those of patients with standard CJD.