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Human form of mad cow disease confirmed in Britain: 1 in 2,000 may be carrier

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A recent research confirms that a human form of mad cow disease is present in 1-in-2,000 people in Britain, which means that nearly 32,000 people may have the disease in Britain.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) is the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease. Researchers have indicated that despite the high number of carriers, just 177 vCJD cases have been reported to date in the UK.

Researchers believe consumption of meat products contaminated with BSE is the reason for vCJD to pass from cattle to humans. The research, which also include Public Health England, also point out that large number of UK population was exposed to meat products contaminated with BSE in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

Professor Noel Gill, lead investigator at Public Health England, said that the current study on vCJD is important as they enable health organisations to strengthen the risk assessments of BSE epidemic.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has recently published a new study, which includes analysis of over 32,000 samples from people of all age groups and had their appendix removed between the year 2000 and 2012. The data was collected from 41 hospitals in England.  

The research found that 16 people of 32,000 samples had high content of infection with abnormal prion protein, which indicates that 1 in 2,000 people are likely carriers of vCJD.

The research also shows that the prion protein in the infectious people born between the year 1941 and 1960 were very similar to those born people born between the year 1961 and 1985. Additionally, the presence of the prion protein was also similar in both men and women.

"It is not known whether all infected individuals will develop disease. The peak of the vCJD epidemic in the UK was in 2000, where 27 probable or definite cases were diagnosed that year. Only one case of vCJD has been diagnosed in 2013 in the UK," says Gill.

The disease can be transmitted through contaminated blood donations. With the latest study revealing high number of infectious cases, it becomes important that authorities take enough steps to assess risks associated with blood donations.

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