Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Health written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Dai Havard Dai Havard Labour, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research has been undertaken to establish whether an increase in sporadic CJD is connected to BSE contaminated meat.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

An increase in deaths in the United Kingdom from sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) from about 10 per year in 1970 to about 40 a year in the 1990s has been reported. These rates are comparable to those observed elsewhere in the world, including countries free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The increased numbers reported probably reflects improved diagnosis, particularly in elderly patients.

Recent examination of the possible causes of the increased rates of sporadic CJD in Switzerland concluded that there was no evidence that the Swiss patients developed the disease as a result of exposure to BSE.

A laboratory study in an animal model published in 2002 (Asante et al 2002. EMBO Journal vol 21) raised the possibility that BSE infection may be linked with disease pathology characteristic of sporadic CJD in humans. Copies are available in the Library. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), the independent, international group of experts that advises the United Kingdom Government on all matters connected with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, considered this paper in February 2003 and acknowledged that it was plausible but considered that the new work did not provide strong evidence to support the hypothesis.

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