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Wednesday, December 6th 2006

Run For The Hills, vCJD Is Coming!

Ah, humor as a defense mechanism. This stuff is scary. Who wants to waste away inside their head? The U.S. has its third case of “mad cow disease,”

“This U.S. case-patient was most likely infected from contaminated cattle products consumed as a child when living in Saudi Arabia,” the CDC said in its report

“The current patient has no history of donating blood and the public health investigation has identified no risk of transmission to U.S. residents from this patient.”

CJD, caused by a misfolded protein in the brain, can occur without consuming beef. Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease is the “mad cow” form that swept through Britain in the 90s.

So, using this story of the third U.S. case merely as a segway, why should you freak out?


I Tried To Put Some Hills In The Background
But My Photo Editing Skills Leave Much To Be Desired

Although a number of people who consumed beef in the UK during 80s and 90s developed the symptoms of vCJD within years, a Lancet study in June said it may take 30 – 50 years for the majority people who “caught” the misfolded protein (prion) to develop the actual symptoms of vCJD. Basically, they said that for most people there would be a long “incubation” period, after they consumed the prion but before they showed symptoms. Which means,

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or vCJD, the human form of “mad cow disease,” has a long incubation period and could cause an eventual epidemic, researchers report.

[R]esearchers at University College London have determined, through the study of a similar disease, that BSE has an incubation period of more than 50 years before it actively becomes vCJD.

So how did those “few” patients in the UK develop symptoms (and expire) so rapidly?

John Collinge, one of the researchers, wrote in a prepared statement that the current small cohort of vCJD patients “could represent a distinct genetic subpopulation with unusually short incubation periods for BSE,” suggesting that many more vCJD patients who caught the disease via contaminated beef could emerge in the coming decades.

“A human BSE epidemic may be multiphasic, and recent estimates of the size of the vCJD epidemic based on uniform genetic susceptibility could be substantial underestimations,” Collinge said.

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