Britain to Test Appendix
And Tonsil Specimens
for Mad Cow - CJD
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is planning to test appendix and tonsil specimens that are routinely kept at hospitals after removal for evidence of the human form of mad cow disease, the Health Department said on Thursday. The government decided on the tests after a marker for the illness, known as new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), was found in the appendix of a man who later died of the condition, a Health Department spokeswoman said. ``They are not certain at the moment whether this means anything. There is a possibility that it might, and they want to look at it,'' the spokeswoman said. British media speculated that if similar evidence was found in appendix and tonsil specimens taken from other people, it could provide a possible way to screen people entering hospital for organ removal or even the entire population. But the Health Department cautioned there was no discussion of mass screening at the moment, because the tests had not yet been performed and officials did not know whether they would find anything. After the man's death, doctors found a rogue protein in his appendix that was associated with nvCJD. The man, a coastguard, had his appendix removed in Devon, south-west England, in September 1995, eight months before displaying any signs of nvCJD and nearly three years before he died. At this stage only existing specimens being kept in hospitals would be tested and that testing would be done anonymously. Any later testing of people entering hospital for organ removal would be done only on the basis of the patient's prior consent, the spokeswaman said. She did not know how many samples would be tested, saying details were being worked out by the government's Medical Research Council. Around 44,000 appendectomies and 800,000 tonsillectomies are carried out each year in Britain, but ``obviously they are not going to test them all,'' she said. The move is the latest in a series of measures taken by the government to combat nvCJD, a killer disease which has taken 27 lives in Britain. The symptoms include dementia, aggression and loss of bodily control. A connection is suspected between nvCJD and mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), and the British government has taken a number of steps to remove potentially infective beef from the food chain.