Human "Mad Cow"
Toll Higher Than Admitted
By James Meikle
The Guardian
Scripps Howard News Service

LONDON (Scripps Howard) -- At least 16 more Britons may have died of the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- BSE, or "mad cow" disease -- than the 27 official victims -- and that they began dying 11 years before the first recognized case in 1995, a scientist is expected to say Monday
Harash Narang, laid off from his British government-funded job four years ago, believes British authorities have either blocked or undermined important tests into both the cattle disease and its transmission to humans.
Narang -- who believes that the human disease, known as new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, should be named after him -- will testify Monday at a BSE inquiry.
The 56-year-old.microbiologist alleges in a written statement that he was "victimized" by the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) and that he identified several patients with atypical symptoms from traditional CJD long before the new variant was announced in March 1996, and linked to the eating of infected beef. The first acknowledged victim was Stephen Churchill, 19, who died in May 1995.
Narang claims he identified the condition, which follows a pattern of psychological problems, depression, instability, coma and death, in 1988. He says that the first death probably occurred in 1984 and involved people in their 60s as well as the mainly young people identified by the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh.
Narang claims he was ordered to stop experiments on possible transmission of BSE to humans in 1990. When he refused, the rodents involved were killed.
He says: "Had these experiments been completed ... and had the preliminary indications been confirmed, we would have been in no doubt about the link between BSE and CJD and many lives could have been saved."
Narang, who believes the infectious agent in BSE is a virus, says: "The government should have kept on open mind and should have encouraged a wide range of approaches rather than shutting down any line of inquiry which did not conform."
The PHLS has denied any victimization. It said it sought to bring his work to scientific and professional attention despite his "misconduct."
He was subject to two sets of disciplinary proceedings. The first was over "unsafe practices," for which he was given a written warning; the second was over unauthorized investigations into CJD victims. The disciplinary investigation into the second case in 1993 found conduct that "justified instant dismissal," but he was released from other duties to work in London while on PHLS pay.
He was laid off in November 1994 and lost a claim for unfair dismissal.

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