- LONDON (October 1, 1998 6:08 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - Italian
doctors said on Friday they had found an unusual case of a man and his
cat who developed Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease simultaneously. The researchers
said the strain of the degenerative brain disorder had never been found
in a cat before and seems to be similar to the disease in its owner.
- "We do not know whether it had been
transmitted between the man and the cat. What we have found in this case
is that the man and the cat show almost the same pathology," Dr. Gianluigi
Zanusso, of the University of Verona, said in a telephone interview.
- Cases of spongiform encephalopathies,
the group of brain wasting diseases that includes mad cow disease (BSE)
and the human equivalent CJD, have been reported in cats before.
- But unlike all the other feline cases
whose illness resembled BSE, the disease discovered in the Italian cat
was similar to the sporadic form of CJD of its owner.
- The unidentified 60-year-old man, who
died three months after being admitted to hospital, had the most common
form of the brain disorder that scientists believe is caused by a mishaped
brain protein known as a prion.
- It was not a new variant CJD that strikes
much younger people and which has been linked to eating beef contaminated
- In a letter to The Lancet medical journal,
Zanusso said the occurrence of the disease in the man and his cat could
be pure coincidence, an infection from a common source, or a result of
horizontal transmission between the owner and his pet.
- He and his colleagues are injecting mice
with samples of brain tissue from the man and the cat to confirm it is
the same strain of disease in both.
- Zanusso said the cat developed behavioral
changes and features that were also different from other reported cases
of the feline disease.
- Researchers have ruled out food contamination
as the source of the infection because they found a different strain of
the prion protein from the ones usually transmitted through food.
- Zanusso said the cat died several months
after the owner which could suggest the animal caught the disease from
- Dr. Moria Bruce, a researcher at the
Institute of Animal Health in Edinburgh who has done extensive research
on prions, said the evidence that the man and the cat had the same strain
of disease needs to be confirmed by transmission studies.
- "It could be coincidence and it
is obviously very interesting," she told Reuters.