Scientists Now Able To
Diagnose CJD In Living
Victims Via Tonsil Biopsy

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists can for the first time diagnose the human form of mad cow disease in living victims, Britain said on Friday.
Until now Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) could not be confirmed until a brain autopsy was done after the patient had died.
But a new technique using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and a biopsy of tonsil tissue can detect if a person is ``probably'' suffering from the degenerative disorder.
The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), a government advisory body, said it could now publish the number of living patients with a new variant of the disease.
``We welcome SEAC's advice which confirms that the recently agreed criteria for diagnosing vCJD in living sufferers is reliable enough for us to publish the number of 'probably' cases identified in this way,'' the Department of Health said in a statement.
New variant CJD (vCJD) is the form of the disease linked to eating beef infected with mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The government stressed there was still no test to detect people newly infected with the illness.
``The average duration of the disease is 14 months, but can range from seven to 38 months. A probable case would typically be diagnosed at about six months into the illness,'' it said.
More than 52 people in Britain have died of vCJD since British scientists identified the new strain of the disease in 1996.
BSE first broke out in British herds in 1986. Scientists think it was caused by feeding the carcasses of sheep that died from scrapie, a related brain disorder, to cattle.


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