- An expert on CJD has claimed that victims of the human
form of mad cow disease most likely contracted the brain wasting illness
after consuming one portion of infected beef.
- In one of his first interviews since the conclusion of
the BSE inquiry, Professor Robert Will, the director of the government-backed
CJD surveillance unit, raised the prospect of one contaminated burger being
enough to cause the new variant of Creutzfeldt Jakob disease.
- Speaking at the unit at the Western General Hospital
in Edinburgh, Professor Will said that he had personally ruled out the
possibility of vCJD - which has been linked to cheap beef products containing
the now-outlawed mechanically removed meat (MRM) - being caused by prolonged
- Instead, he claimed that such meat products containing
bovine spinal chord could have contained a high enough level of infection
to start the chain reaction of vCJD after one meal.
- "One of the reasons I say this, and it is a very
important issue for the families involved, is that to date there has been
no family in which more than one member has been affected, despite the
fact that a number of members of the family may have been exposed to the
- "One potential explanation for this is that there
wasn't an even distribution of infectivity in the food chain but there
may have been one critical component of a batch of food that contained
enough infectivity to cause eventual disease.
- "This is all speculation and I understand there
is a risk from speculation, but this is what I believe is the most likely
explanation from the data that we have to date."
- Professor Will, 50, who was born in Glasgow and lives
in Edinburgh with his wife and two teenage children, said he felt that
scientists had to learn from last year's BSE inquiry into the government's
handling of the crisis which concluded that a Whitehall "culture of
secrecy" had resulted in the government misleading the public over
the safety of British beef for 10 years.
- Professor Will made the comments as the latest figures
from the unit showed that the number of cases of vCJD continued to rise,
with 85 known or probable deaths recorded across the UK, including 13 in
Scotland, since the condition was first identified in 1996.
- Five people are currently thought to be suffering from
the brain wasting condition, with one case identified in Scotland.
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