With new studies, researchers claim that more people could be at risk of contracting the human form of mad cow disease than previously thought after new evidence emerged that the condition could lie dormant for years before developing. According to the scientists from Edinburgh a long incubation period for the disease, and an ability to pass through blood transfusions and surgical instruments, can become a significant public health issue. Already the link between Mad cow disease and the vCJD 9variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease) had been established by the scientists. Now woith studies on mice they have concluded that the vCJD could lie in the body for many years without showing any symptoms.
With the long incubations period, they believe that many people are already infected by it, and are yet to know. When the number of deaths rose steadily from a few to 28 in 2000 many believed that the worst had passed and that they had the disease in control. But now with the new research, they are leading to believe that he worst is yet to come, and a lot more lives could be lost.
The disease is believed pass from cattle to humans through eating meat infected with BSE. During the 1980s and 90s, it has killed 154 people in Britain to date, according to the vCJD Surveillance Unit at the Western General Hospital. Six people are still fighting the disease. Till now all those affected seem to have a particular gene type MM. But now with studies done at the at the Institute for Animal Health in Edinburgh it is found that the variant vCJD could also be found in other genotypes but lie in the body for many years without showing any symptoms.
The studies claim that a significant level of underlying vCJD may already be present in the population without knowledge. Experts feel that that vCJD could be passed from human to human through secondary transmission such as blood transfusions and contaminated surgical equipment in all genotypes. The Lancet Neurology published these studies in on-line today said that said the fact people may not know they are carrying the disease in its dormant form meant it could be spread through blood transfusion to which all genotypes are susceptible. This could make the number of individuals susceptible to this secondary transmission much larger.
Professor Hugh Pennington, the president of the Society of General Microbiology, said there could be a second wave of fatalities if more genotypes are affected but not yet coming down with symptoms. He said that the possibility that there may be some effect of BSE on people who have so far shown no effect cannot be ruled out.. With the increase risk of unknowingly transmitting the infection, there would increase the risk to the population as a whole, but it is impossible to say how many people would die as a result. Stating that this was just a warning sign, he stressed that things should be taken with utmost priority.
Marc Leighton Turner, a clinical director for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, said the findings were of concern, especially for people in the in the blood transfusion service and surgeons as they may be a source of secondary transmission.