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New vCJD wave concerns

18th December 2008

Doctors are concerned that a new wave of the human form of mad cow disease is set to hit Britain.

In the UK all 164 people who have so far died of variant CJD – which came from cows infected with BSE – all shared a version of a certain gene.

But now a new case has emerged with the individual concerned having a particular genetic make-up and it is the first case to appear of that type.

The government's chief adviser on vCJD, Professor Chris Higgins, said estimates were that up to 350 people could become affected.

In the original cases, the gene was known as MM – carried by 42% of the population - but the new version has a gene called MV, which is carried by 47% of people.

Prof Higgins, chairman of the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, said: "Given that 160 to 170 MM individuals were infected, we would estimate the number of MV victims would be a maximum of 300 to 350, probably between 50 and 350."

Hugh Pennington, the emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said the new cases may have originated with the original vCJD outbreak but could have a longer incubation period.

Christine Lord, who lost her 24-year-old son to vCJD a year ago, is to continue campaigning for more to be done about vCJD.

She said: "I want people to know out there that vCJD hasn't gone away and it's still killing people... and now it looks like it's the next wave."

 

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