- Australian researchers studying the risk
factors linked to sporadic CJD have found that the greatest is surgery
for conditions like hysterectomies and heart surgery.
- They think their findings could have
implications for "new variant CJD" caused by eating beef infected
with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
- CJD - a degenerative, fatal brain disorder
that leads to progressive dementia and other conditions - comes in several
forms. The most common is sporadic CJD that mainly affects elderly people
and accounts for between 85 and 95% of cases worldwide.
- Risk factors
- Scientists do not know what causes it,
but researchers from the Australian National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
Registry sought to isolate some risk factors.
- They studied 241 definite and probable
cases of CJD and compared them with 784 healthy volunteers.
- The information on the CJD cases came
from the registry's records of cases between 1970 and 1993.
- The greatest risk factor was for people
who had had three or more operations, including hysterectomies, heart surgery,
haemorrhoid removal, cataracts, varicose veins and carpel tunnel syndrome.
- But people who had organ transplants,
blood transfusions and major dental work were at no increased risk.
- Other risk factors included living or
working on a farm or in a market garden for more than 10 years.
- However, people who worked in butchers
shops or abattoirs were not at any greater risk.
- Hospital infection
- The researchers say their findings suggest
that CJD could be linked to infections transmitted during operations.
- Writing in the Lancet, they say they
shoud "reinforce the heightened vigilance about infection control
at all levels of care in hospital settings".
- Last year, there were some 39 cases of
sporadic CJD in the UK and 12 cases of new variant CJD.
- Recent UK research has suggested a link
between new variant CJD and surgical instruments.
- Some doctors have called for the introduction
of disposable instruments to prevent infection being spread.