- LONDON (Reuters Health) - The total number of British fatalities from
new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has risen by 2 and now amounts to
35 as of November 30, 1998, according to the UK Department of Health.
- New variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
(nvCJD) is a progressive, fatal illness that may be linked to consumption
of meat from cattle infected with "mad cow disease,'' or bovine spongiform
- The 35 cases represent all the definite
and probable cases of new variant CJD that have been identified since 1995.
There were 12 deaths due to nvCJD in 1998 as of November. This compares
with 10 cases in 1997 and 10 cases in 1996. Three cases were reported in
- The incidence of new variant CJD last
year "remains comparable'' to that of the previous 2 years, said a
spokeswoman for the Department of Health.
- "At this stage, we cannot draw any
conclusions about the overall trend of the incidence of the disease,''
- Separately, researchers writing in the
January 2nd issue of The Lancet conclude that Britons living near rendering
plants that produce cattle meat and bone meal are at no greater risk of
contracting new variant CJD compared with the rest of the population of
- Dr. Simon N. Cousens of the London School
of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and UK colleagues compared the distribution
of rendering plants with the residential histories of Britons who had died
of new variant CJD as of August 31, 1998. The number of new variant CJD
cases among people living near the plants in 1988 was no greater than cases
that might have been expected given no association between residence and
risk of disease.
- "There is no evidence that people
with variant CJD tended to live closer than the population as a whole to
rendering plants in the 1980s,'' the researchers conclude.
- The most likely transmission route for
the disease is exposure to beef infected with BSE, but this will be hard
to prove, Cousens told Reuters Health.
- "I think it's going to be very difficult
to demonstrate in a positive way that it's food, because it is so problematic
getting accurate data,'' he commented. He said that finding the likely
transmission mechanism will involve a "process of elimination.''
- SOURCE: The Lancet 1999;353:18-21.