- There have been no (official) cases of
BSE - bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow disease"
- in North America.
- But a BBC programme says some experts
fear a new kind of Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human equivalent
of BSE, is killing young Americans.
- The programme, "BSE - The Untold
Story", was broadcast on Radio 4.
- CJD is normally a disease of elderly
people, but the type linked to eating the meat of BSE cattle - new variant
CJD - attacks young patients.
- CJD is not a notifiable disease in the
USA, so there are no accurate figures on the number of cases or the ages
- A Washington lawyer, Andrew Kimbrell,
told the programme: " We've seen explosions of cases.We're facing
what the UK faced a few years ago".
- "Is it a time bomb? Is it just something
that a few people seem susceptible to?"
- US supplies thought safe
- Mr Kimbrell wants an investigation into
the possibility that the country's blood supply may be infected with CJD.
- Britain started importing blood plasma
from the US last week, because of "the theoretical risk" that
CJD could be spread by infected British blood supplies.
- The programme says there is a serious
body of scientific opinion which believes that BSE infected people, in
its CJD form, not through the stomach but through the bloodstream.
- A zoologist, June Goodfield, says that
if eating meat caused infection by CJD, there would have been many more
cases by now.
- The programme cites earlier studies of
the Fore tribe in Papua New Guinea, who suffered from a similar brain disease
- These studies suggested the disease was
spread when people handled the flesh of kuru victims, rather than when
they ate it.
- They suggested the infectious agent could
enter the bloodstream through cuts and bites, or through mucous membranes.
- Professor Sir John Pattison, who chairs
the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, told the programme he
had no evidence of a new CJD strain in the USA.
- The programme also says it has seen estimates
of the likely number of British CJD victims, which were prepared for the
- These say there could be as few as a
dozen more deaths, or as many as thirteen million.