Document Directory

01 Oct 00 - CJD - Farm worker is fourth victim in CJD 'death valley'
01 Oct 00 - CJD - How the death of Cow 133 started a tragic chain of events
01 Oct 00 - CJD - In the last days of Donna, will anyone take the blame?
01 Oct 00 - CJD - Strip the guilty of pensions,demand families
01 Oct 00 - CJD - mad cows, bad government
01 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE inquiry pins blame on the Tories
28 Sep 00 - CJD - BSE inquiry 'set to clear ministers'
28 Sep 00 - CJD - Vets honour scientist for work against BSE
27 Sep 00 - CJD - CJD fear leads to controls on plasma
27 Sep 00 - CJD - Blair to decide on CJD compensation
25 Sep 00 - CJD - BSE cases down but CJD on increase
24 Sep 00 - CJD - New BSE outbreak linked to blood in feed
22 Sep 00 - CJD - Australia bans blood of travellers to UK
19 Sep 00 - CJD - Blood ban on visitors to Britain
18 Sep 00 - CJD - Bad news on the way?
18 Sep 00 - CJD - Mother may have passed CJD to baby
18 Sep 00 - CJD - CJD victim may have infected her unborn baby
17 Sep 00 - CJD - Mother passes on CJD to unborn baby
17 Sep 00 - CJD - Tragic inheritance of baby 'born with CJD'
17 Sep 00 - CJD - 'No evidence' baby got CJD in womb caught womb
17 Sep 00 - CJD - Gummer to take brunt of blame in BSE report
17 Sep 00 - CJD - Blood donors feared to have spread CJD

01 Oct 00 - CJD - Farm worker is fourth victim in CJD 'death valley'

By Andrew Buncombe

Independent ... Sunday 1 October 2000

A young farm worker has become the fourth person with close links to the same Leicestershire village to die from new variant CJD - the human form of mad cow disease.

It was revealed yesterday that Christopher Reeve, 24, died last Thursday after suffering from vCJD for at least a year. He is the fourth victim from the village of Queniborough , in the Wreake Valley, where the Government has launched an investigation.

The news comes as the independent inquiry set up to examine BSE and CJD will today pass its report to ministers. The 16m inquiry - which has taken two-and-a-half years to complete - has looked at the causes of the disease and the adequacy or otherwise of the official response.

Mr Reeve, the youngest of six children, lived in the neighbouring village of Rearsby but worked in Queniborough.

His parents, Tony and Linda, placed a notice in a local newspaper which said: "Christopher has passed away peacefully after as much pain as anybody could cope with.

"We watched over him for months and watched him suffer but in all the times he never complained. He would laugh and joke and smiled at us right to the end.

"We keep asking 'Why him?' He was gentle, kind and never hurt anyone. We held him in our arms and we wished we could make him better but it wasn't to be."

A Queniborough resident, who asked not to be named, said: "This area is being called 'death valley' and fear is hanging over everyone .

"You just wonder who is going to be next .

"It's an invisible disease and you don't know who else has contracted it or what the source could be."

Dr Philip Monk, consultant in communicable diseases at Leicestershire health authority, said yesterday: "Sadly the death was expected. It is a tragedy for the family and our thoughts are with them."

Officials say vCJD has claimed the lives of 74 known victims, while another eight are suffering from it.

The cluster in Queniborough is being investigated by experts from the CJD surveillance unit, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the public health laboratory service as well as the local health authority and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Health. Results of the investigation are due in November.

Dr Monk added: "The cluster is linked by time and place but whether it's Queniborough itself we don't yet know. Certainly one of the things we will look at is the food supply ."

The government inquiry has taken evidence from more than 800 witnesses including experts, politicians and relatives of victims.

Yesterday Frances Hall of the support group, the Human BSE Foundation, said: "It's going to be a red-letter day for us to see this report handed over. We had to fight very hard to get this inquiry. Whether we get a total picture, I don't know."

01 Oct 00 - CJD - How the death of Cow 133 started a tragic chain of events

Staff Reporter

Observer ... Sunday 1 October 2000

December 1984 A farmer in Surrey reported that a Friesian cow had contracted a strange disease. Within two months it had died. This cow is now known as Cow 133 - the first animal with BSE.

November 1986 BSE was officially recognised as a disease at MAFF's Central Veterinary Laboratory but the Government's Chief Medical Officer was not told until much later.

June 1987 The Chief Veterinary Officer informed the Agriculture Minister, John MacGregor, about the disease. A year later BSE was made a notifiable disease and sheep offal was banned from cattle feed.

August 1988 The Government ordered infected cattle to be killed.

November 1989 The Government ordered certain cattle offal to be banned from human food.

January 1990 The Agriculture Minister, John Gummer, says: 'There is no evidence anywhere in the world of BSE passing from animals to humans.'

May 1990 Gummer feeds a hamburger to his daughter (pictured).

July 1990 Gummer says: 'On the basis of all scientific evidence available, eating beef is safe.'

May 1995 Stephen Churchill dies, aged 19 - the first known victim of new-variant Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease.

December 1995 The Agriculture Minister, Douglas Hogg, says: 'BSE is not transmissible to humans.'

March 1996 The Health Secretary, Stephen Dorrell, says the most likely cause of 10 deaths from CJD was from eating BSE-infected products.

December 1997 Tony Blair announces a public inquiry into the BSE crisis.

01 Oct 00 - CJD - In the last days of Donna, will anyone take the blame?

Stuart Millar

Observer ... Sunday 1 October 2000

Donna McIntyre is just 21 . She is dying in hospital from the human form of BSE - mad cow Disease. Her family feels she has been betrayed by civil servants, farmers, and government . A long-awaited report on the BSE crisis goes to Ministers tomorrow. But it will not come in time to save Donna.

Billy McIntyre steeled himself as best he could. As he reached the entrance to the hospital ward he paused, took a deep breath and somehow managed to drag a smile on to his lined, pale face - as he had done every night for weeks before visiting his daughter.

Donna was in her usual position, curled up awkwardly in the worn, green leather reclining chair beside her bed at the end of the ward. The visit last Monday started well enough: father hugging and tickling daughter, while keeping up the smile and a steady stream of upbeat chatter. But the 21 year old's mood changed, and she became agitated and distressed. Then, in a momentary flicker of lucidity that crushed all her dad's mental preparations, she looked straight at him and asked: 'Am I dying? '

The straightforward answer is: yes . Donna is far too ill to comprehend her rapidly-deteriorating condition, let alone deal with its inevitable conclusion, so her father laughed off the question. But three weeks ago she was diagnosed as one of the latest cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the fatal brain disorder which is the human form of BSE, or mad cow disease. She is unlikely to survive much beyond next spring .

McIntyre, an electrician from Aberdeen, has now taken the unusual decision to speak publicly about his daughter's plight while she is still alive. While the bereaved relatives of some victims have provided a glimpse of vCJD's impact, Donna's story provides a sobering insight into the daily ordeal being endured by the McIntyres and at least eight other families across the UK - a plight caused by the scandal of farmers feeding cattle with the brains and vertebrae of other animals, and the repeated disgrace of Ministers and civil servants' failure to stop it.

'I still don't believe this is happening to us,' McIntyre told The Observer. 'This is something that affects people on television and in the newspapers, not my daughter. Every day, I try to imagine how I would feel if it was me, to imagine how it must be for her, but it tears me apart just to think about it.'

His intervention comes as the mad cow disease scandal returns to centre stage. This week Lord Phillips, chairman of the public inquiry into BSE, will hand his long-awaited final report to Ministers. After two-and-a-half years and more than 16 million, the 16- volume report will be the definitive judgment on the causes of the BSE/CJD affair and the adequacy of Ministers' response.

Although Phillips had already made clear that the findings would not decide the thorny issue of liability , the victims' families had hoped the report would pave the way for the Government to set up a compensation scheme. But last week a leaked Whitehall memo revealed that Ministers have decided not to take any blame for the crisis .

About 4bn has been spent on a no-fault scheme to compensate farmers for culled cattle, but Ministers, says the memo, baulked at the prospect of a multi-billion pound compensation bill from human victims.

When the inquiry began in March 1998, the disease had claimed 24 lives. The toll is now 74 . A further eight victims are still alive, according to official figures which do not yet include Donna .

For the McIntyres, news of the memo was devastating. Less than a month after they were told that Donna had contracted a disease which should never have been allowed to emerge, they found they also may face a long, painful legal battle for damages .

'It is sickening what the politicians have tried to do ,' said her father. 'They knew about the problems in the food chain, about spinal cords and other bits of animals getting mixed into cattle feed, but they did nothing . Now they won't take responsibility .

'Money is the last thing on our minds now, but I hope Tony Blair chokes on his breakfast when he reads about my daughter.'

Donna's life was just coming together when early signs of the disease emerged. She was working as a receptionist in Aberdeen and living in a rented flat there. She was shy, but at weekends she went dancing with friends. Nothing trendy; Donna remains a loyal fan of Take That. Like any young woman, she was meticulous about her appearance.

Last Easter, she stayed at her father's small terraced council house. It was the first time they had spent together for three years, and they both loved it. Donna even talked of giving up her flat and moving back in. She spent the week there. Then she disappeared.

For two months the family heard nothing. Telephone calls and letters went unanswered. Her flat was deserted. In July, she should have celebrated her twenty-first birthday. McIntyre and his partner, Bernadette Prescott, sent a card and tried to find her. Nothing.

This is classic vCJD behaviour. In the initial stages, victims are unable to comprehend what is happening to their bodies . They merely know that something is going wrong. They become depressed and paranoid , withdrawing into themselves. Some have nightmares . But the McIntyre family could not have known.

When Donna eventually resurfaced, the news was not good. She had been sleeping rough and had a serious skin condition and a bizarre twitching in her limbs.

Donna began believing that other people were present in the room. She would talk to them. Sometimes she would demand that someone stand up and offer their chair to her brother, Thomas, who died in a fire in 1996.

Like many other relatives of vCJD victims, Donna's family started suspecting mental problems. After several visits to her GP, she was referred to psychiatrist. But he was unable to help.

By mid-August, Donna's condition was still worse. There were violent mood swings, her speech was slow and badly slurred, and her short-term memory had faded. She was losing the use of her arms and legs, her balance had gone and she needed support to walk. On 28 August, she went into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for tests.

'We had no idea what it could be, although it was obviously serious,' said McIntyre. 'They tested her for multiple sclerosis and diseases like that, but they kept coming up with nothing. We didn't even think about it being vCJD.

'Donna was always a meat-eater; she liked her burgers and her pies, but it never crossed our mind that her illness could have had anything to do with that.'

A week after Donna was admitted, her father was called to the hospital by his daughter's consultant. The doctor told him the tests had found no alternative, treatable explanation - she was 50 per cent certain Donna had vCJD. Cases cannot be confirmed without analysis of the brain after death but, under rules introduced this year, living probable cases can be diagnosed by the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh. Its specialists tested Donna and confirmed the diagnosis .

Sitting in his living room surrounded by photographs of Donna and her six brothers and sisters, McIntyre struggled with tears to describe the impact of that: 'My whole body just went numb. I couldn't take it in. I tried to ask questions but I couldn't form any words. Then I broke down. I'm not ashamed of it - I cried like a baby.'

Donna's body is now failing fast. She behaves most of the time like a very young child, sitting in her green chair, smiling to herself but unable to follow events around her, or to understand simple questions. As dementia slowly took hold, her short-term memory all but disappeared. Sometimes, she has failed even to recognise her father. Occasionally, some lucidity returns and she becomes more animated and engaged.

The physical effects of the disease are obvious, too. Pale and thin, her legs can no longer support her weight, and she is frequently incontinent. Last Friday night, The Observer arrived at the hospital as a guest of her family to find Donna lying, extremely distressed, on the floor beneath her chair. She had realised she needed to use the toilet but her legs had given way and she had fallen over, soiling her pyjamas in her distress. Her brain is so damaged, she is almost certainly unable to tell that her body is deteriorating.

Unlike her family. 'Sometimes I have to drag myself up to see her because I am so scared to see what condition she is in,' said her father. 'Then I feel a huge guilt - what we're going through is nothing compared to how she is suffering.'

He knows worse is to come. Before long, Donna will lose the power of speech completely. Her eyesight will fade, and she will be unable to swallow. Eventually, she will have to be fed by a tube. Even then, however, death could be months, rather than weeks, away.

But McIntyre is determined to see her through to the end with dignity. Against medical advice, he plans to take her home to care for her himself. 'It will be hard, but there will soon be a time when she is no longer there and I don't need to care for her any more. Any time we have is precious.'

01 Oct 00 - CJD - Strip the guilty of pensions,demand families

Antony Barnett, public affairs editor

Observer ... Sunday 1 October 2000

Families of victims killed by the human form of BSE are demanding personal apologies from former Tory Ministers and senior civil servants , who will be blamed tomorrow for the epidemic of mad cow disease that has so far killed more than 70 people. They want those singled out to be 'punished', possibly by being stripped of their state pensions .

Frances Hall, secretary of the Human BSE Foundation, whose son Peter died from variant CJD in 1996, said: 'After all this time and all we have been through, nobody has yet had the decency to say sorry, we made a mistake. That is more important than any compensation.'

David Churchill, whose 19-year-old son Stephen died in 1995, said: 'They will be sitting down with their complete families around the table at Christmas with their big fat pensions , They should be stopped. It may seem vengeful, but when some of your family have died through no fault of theirs, what else can you expect?'

Tomorrow Lord Phillips will hand his 16-volume report on the BSE crisis, which took two years to compile, to Agriculture Minister Nick Brown. It will reveal a viper's nest of Whitehall disputes , buck-passing , vested interests and complacency at the Agriculture Ministry and the Department of Health that prevented action to stop the epidemic from spreading .

Former Tory Agriculture Minister John Gummer is expected to take much of the criticism, particularly after publicly feeding his four-year-old daughter a beefburger early in the BSE crisis to try to show the public that beef was safe. At the time there were dozens of cases of suspected CJD and alarm was rising about the safety of the meat . But it was not until 1996 that the Tory government finally admitted a link between BSE and variant CJD. Gummer implored the then Health Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, not to answer parliamentary questions on food safety for fear of exposing policy divisions.

Other former Tory Ministers in the firing line include former Agriculture Ministers John MacGregor and Douglas Hogg . The former initially opposed government funding for BSE cattle slaughter, delaying action against the disease. Hogg was in charge when the link between BSE and variant CJD was found.

However, the most serious criticism is expected to be of civil servants and 'institutional failures'.

Former Chief Veterinary Officer Keith Meldrum is likely to come under attack for putting the meat industry before consumers .

Sir Richard Packer , former permanent secretary at the Agriculture Ministry, will be criticised for failing to ensure abattoirs were not flouting the rules designed to remove BSE-infected beef from the food chain. He retired with a payoff of 430,000 .

01 Oct 00 - CJD - mad cows, bad government

Observer ... Sunday 1 October 2000

The BSE crisis is Britain's most serious postwar public-health scandal . Seventy-four people have already died and another eight are in the throes of a prolonged death agony that is unbearable to witness . Our report today about the plight of 21-year-old Donna McIntyre is a harrowing account of human distress.

Yet this is a scandal for which the Government and the Conservative Party, in particular, must be held substantially responsible. The crumbling of consumer trust in agriculture was a by-product of the BSE crisis. This self-induced wound was caused by loose regulation and wanton use of growth hormones and cheap cattle feed .

Indulged and protected by a Conservative government that did not want to act on ever more articulate warnings, the farming community is the other actor in this drama that must be held to account .

Tomorrow, the country will revisit the BSE affair when Lord Phillips hands the results of his exhaustive two-year inquiry to Ministers. It is a catalogue of official ineptitude and absence of political urgency . Ministry of Agriculture vets and scientists knew with certainty of the existence of BSE from November 1986, but the Government's chief medical officer was not told until 16 months later , in March 1988. The Ministry banned the use of meat and bonemeal in cattle feed in July 1988, but did not recall unused stocks from farms .

In his report in February 1989, Professor Richard Southwood said that BSE posed a 'remote' risk to human beings, but failed to recommend an immediate ban on consumption of dangerous cattle parts. This was not done until nine months later . As early as 1990 , the Ministry was aware of concern that abattoirs were not enforcing controls to keep infected material out of the food chain, but did nothing about it until 1995 . Nor can a succession of Tory Agriculture Ministers over the 10-year episode escape censure. The Tory philosophy of light regulation meant that Messrs McGregor , Gummer , Hogg and Dorrell acted too little and too late .

But New Labour is in power now. It has until 26 October, when the report is published, to determine its reaction. The auguries are not good. A leaked memo last week advised the Government not to comment on the report , and the Treasury is known to be resisting the establishment of no-fault compensation or even the creation of a tiny 1million care-fund to ensure quick diagnosis and proper treatment for victims.

This line is unsustainable ; the Exchequer is running a surplus of stunning proportions. There is no reason, financial or moral, to behave other than with humanity and generosity. New Labour has been warned.

01 Oct 00 - CJD - BSE inquiry pins blame on the Tories

Jonathan Leake and John Elliott

Sunday Times ... Sunday 1 October 2000

Former Tory ministers are to be accused of complacency over the BSE crisis in an official report that will also criticise civil servants for knowingly misleading the public over risks from the disease.

Drafts of the report, seen by The Sunday Times, will also say government scientists concealed or delayed scientific findings that would have helped to explain the cause of BSE .

If ministers and officials had acted differently, the spread of BSE could have been contained earlier, says the report , which is based on a two-year inquiry headed by Lord Phillips, a high court judge and the new master of the rolls. Tens of thousands of people's lives were put at risk - and an estimated 4 billion has been spent trying to contain the disease .

A draft of the report adds that government policy at the height of the BSE crisis was not based on scientific evidence but "on a fundamental lack of it" .

John Major's cabinet is criticised for rejecting plans put forward by Douglas Hogg, then agriculture minister, on March 19, 1996, that would have largely halted the sale of infected beef.

It was the day before Stephen Dorrell, then health secretary, was to announce that 10 young people had died from variant CJD, the human form of the disease - but Major and his cabinet decided the measure would do disproportionate harm to the beef industry .

The report refers to a phrase used by Hogg in the inquiry, in which he described Major's cabinet as a "disorganised rabble" over the issue. Hogg's proposals were implemented a month later after a public outcry.

Phillips will hand the finished report to Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, tomorrow. It will coincide with figures showing that the disease is still accelerating with the number of confirmed cases rising from 69 to 73 , with another 11 "probable" victims.

The revelations will cast a shadow over the Conservative party conference which opens in Bournemouth today. Senior Tories fear speculation about the report's contents could dominate the news agenda.

The report says that John MacGregor , agriculture minister from 1987 to 1989, took a crucial decision to "slap down" advice from officials that farmers should be given compensation when BSE cows were slaughtered.

The decision in February 1988 was not reversed until that August, but even then farmers were offered only half the value of an infected cow. It was not until 1990 that they were given full compensation, by which time, says the report, hundreds of thousands of infected animals had entered the human food chain . In total nearly 1m such cattle were eaten .

Gummer is also criticised for his decision to feed a beefburger to Cordelia, his four-year-old daughter , in an effort to prove that the meat was safe. This has become one of the enduring images of the BSE crisis.

The report says Gummer's reassurances that beef products were safe, although made in good faith, flew in the face of scientific evidence such as the 1990 discovery of BSE in a cat - clear evidence that the disease could jump species .

It contrasts such public reassurances with meetings Gummer was holding with officials to discuss the possible slaughter of the entire national herd .

The report singles out several officials, including Keith Meldrum - chief veterinary officer from 1988 to 1997 - who admitted having made no contingency plans to protect the public if BSE was found in humans.

This weekend few senior Conservatives would comment but it is understood that a senior frontbencher - possibly Tim Yeo, the agriculture spokesman - may address the issue. The option of including an implicit apology to the families of victims was under discussion.

Hogg said he was furious that the handover procedure gave the government three weeks to read the report and leak its contents before those criticised had a chance to see it. Of his former cabinet colleagues, he said: "They did not fully understand the gravity of what was about to burst upon them."

28 Sep 00 - CJD - BSE inquiry 'set to clear ministers'

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

Times ... Thursday 28 September 2000

Former Conservative ministers and civil servants are to be cleared of serious negligence over the BSE crisis.

Ministers have been told that Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, chairman of the BSE inquiry, will say that he found no evidence of malevolence in many errors and delays in the government response to the scandal.

Instead, a summary prepared by senior government officials monitoring the work of the inquiry - which has been circulated to ministers - suggests that blame will be attributed to "institutional failures" .

Disciplinary action cannot, however, be ruled out against any remaining civil servants until ministers see the precise words used by Lord Phillips about individuals. They will get his final report next week. Most officials involved in the crisis have retired or left the Civil Service.

One of the key issues to be dealt with by the report is the lack of enforcement of new controls on abattoirs to ensure that any potential BSE-infected beef was removed from the food chain. Lord Phillips is to focus on how the controls were not properly implemented on the ground. He is expected to be particularly harsh against officials because they knew that some abattoirs were ignoring the rules.

One government source said yesterday: "This is the biggest issue. Potentially we have people dying unnecessarily of variant CJD because if precautions had been properly enforced they would have stopped contaminated food entering the food chain."

Senior civil servants believe the report will focus on the role of the animal health division in the Ministry of Agriculture and the part played by Keith Meldrum , the former chief veterinary officer.

Central government is expected to be criticised for setting policy but failing to police it on the ground. At the time - in 1988 - local authorities were responsible for controls in slaughterhouses. Many in the meat industry were not convinced, however, that the new BSE rules were necessary. There is no evidence that ministers turned a blind eye to help the meat industry.

The report is also expected to criticise the Department of Health for failing to make independent checks to ensure enforcement of controls. A government source said: "There is a feeling that officials did not want to rock the boat."

John Gummer , the former Agriculture Minister, is expected to be criticised for his efforts to shore up confidence in beef. Officials monitoring the inquiry believe there is no evidence that Mr Gummer was motivated by "any sense of wickedness" to help out Tory friends in the meat business.

One source said: "He had a happy-go-lucky approach but it is hardly a hanging offence."

28 Sep 00 - CJD - Vets honour scientist for work against BSE

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 28 September 2000

A leading Government scientist at the forefront of the battle against mad cow disease for the past 14 years is to receive one of the veterinary profession's rarest honours .

Prof John Wilesmith , head of epidemiology at the Veterinary Laboratory Agency near Weybridge, Surrey, will be presented today with the Chiron Award , the most prestigious award bestowed by the British Veterinary Association, at its annual congress in Chester. He joins only a handful of previous winners.

The award reflects the admiration of fellow professionals, regardless of the findings of the BSE inquiry due to be published next month. Prof Wilesmith's constantly updated forecasts about the pattern, impact and timescale of the BSE epidemic have proved uncannily accurate despite criticism from epidemiologists outside Maff who claimed that they were too optimistic

27 Sep 00 - CJD - CJD fear leads to controls on plasma

James Meikle

Guardian ... Wednesday 27 September 2000

The government is considering more stringent controls on blood plasma used in surgical emergencies because of the theoretical risk that using transfusions from unwitting carriers of human BSE might infect patients with the disease .

Between 20,000 and 30,000 people a year are still thought to receive plasma from British donors despite other measures to reduce the threat from accidental transfer of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease via blood.

The national blood service said yesterday that new anti-viral treatments of plasma and artificial alternatives were among the options following recent evidence that a sheep could transfer a BSE-like disease to another animal through blood transfusion long before displaying outward signs of the condition.

The admission comes less than two weeks after the service and the Department of Health attempted to allay concerns sparked by research by scientists at the Institute of Animal Health. They then pointed to the precautionary measures introduced over the last two years - the filtering out of white cells, thought most likely to carry the vCJD agent, from blood and the use of plasma in blood products imported from countries without vCJD.

These would minimise the risk of future cases through transfusion. Seven known vCJD victims among the 74 dead and eight probable cases are thought to have been blood donors and there is as yet no test that could screen donations for the presence of the vCJD agent.

But some British plasma is still used to help clot the blood of victims of trauma or patients in long operations needing large transfusions. The blood service said this was a blood component from a single donor and not a factory- made product made from plasma pooled from many donors.

"There is a subtle difference", said Tim Wallington, the service's medical spokesman. "I don't think we have been misleading the public . What we have done is what was considered practical at the time. The truth is the sheep stuff has made everybody think again . We are doing everything we possibly can about this threat."

The health department said plasma was in short supply and alternative commercial sources were collected from European countries, which though vCJD-free, were not BSE-free.

Plasma for other medical products was imported from the US . The plasma used from UK sources was filtered in the same way as other blood donations.

A drugs company, Octopharma, claimed it could offer less risky alternatives to the fresh plasma used in emergency cases, even though it conceded that no known treatments could remove the deformed prion protein thought responsible for spreading vCJD. It sourced plasma from countries where the only reported cases of BSE were from imported animals and there were no reported cases of vCJD.

Brian Stack, Octopharma's acting UK general manager, said: "The evidence about vCJD is mounting. Why are they sitting on the fence and putting at risk the British population? "

The company has complained to the European commission, alleging unfair charging policies by the national blood service which makes British plasma less than half the price of its own.

The row over blood coincides with a leaked cabinet memo which confirms the government's determination not to offer compensation to vCJD victims without fighting them through the courts first. The families have already formally started legal action.

27 Sep 00 - CJD - Blair to decide on CJD compensation

By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor

Times ... Wednesday 27 September 2000

Tony Blair will decide whether compensation should be paid to the families of victims of vCJD, the human form of "mad cow" disease.

The issue is seen as particularly sensitive in government. A senior Whitehall source said yesterday: "The matter has gone to the highest level."

The conclusions of an inquiry into the illness by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers will be given to the Cabinet next week . Ministers have accepted that they must take action if Lord Phillips makes a statement on liability. If he does not, the normal course would be for the liability to be determined in the courts.

Ministers believe that the victims' families have acted with dignity and tolerance during the three-year investigation, which has cost 40 million. The Government is also aware that it would be politically disastrous to pursue a lengthy court case in which it was perceived to be "haggling" over compensation. Ministers, however, still have no idea of the scale of the outbreak. "It is clear this is not a case where we will have to write out a blank cheque," a source said. "It is more like a standing order for we do not know the final number of victims ."

Mr Blair has instructed ministers to be "particularly guarded " about the findings of the report. He wants them to refrain from making political capital from the illness which has already claimed 74 lives. There are another nine probable cases and the possibility of thousands more deaths . The Prime Minister is concerned that some ministers may use the report to criticise former Tory ministers and damage the Conservative Party conference next week.

A leaked Cabinet Office memo circulated to officials earlier this month said that there would be no compensation payments to victims or families of vCJD, "without proof of legal liability". Some ministers insist that this is a holding position by the Government which is yet to recognise the political implications of the issue. Downing Street said yesterday that the memo did not represent government policy. Ministers will discuss the fallout of vCJD next week.

There is anger among former ministers, civil servants and scientists that they are not to be told of any criticisms of them or their departments in the report until its planned publication date on October 26. They believe that once it is passed around Whitehall, it will be leaked and there will be attempts to spin the story.

An inquiry spokesman said that the panel would not show the report to witnesses who might be subject to criticism and that the findings were reserved for the Cabinet.

Individuals criticised by the Scott Inquiry into illicit arms sales to Iraq were informed of the findings in advance. Some witnesses in the BSE inquiry are so concerned about the secrecy that they have complained to ministers.

Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, and Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, are to seek guidance from the Speaker's Office. In theory, because the report is for Parliament, the Speaker must give permission for it to be shown to interested parties before MPs. There is no easy solution, however, because a successor to Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker, is yet to be appointed and the post will not be awarded until MPs return to the Commons at the end of the month.

A government source said that individuals may be allowed to see extracts of the report that relate to them a few hours before it is published.

25 Sep 00 - CJD - BSE cases down but CJD on increase

By Danny Kemp

Independent ... Monday 25 September 2000

The BSE epidemic is starting to drop off in line with scientists' predictions, a Government report stated yesterday. But the number of known cases of "variant" CJD, the human form of the disease, has increased to 74 .

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food study comes a day after the department played down fears that up to eight more cows may have contracted BSE because of inadequate measures to eradicate it.

The progress report outlined the measures taken to protect public health in the six months from December 1999.It stated that BSE cases have already shown a dramatic decline and that the situation was due to improve further in the future.

On average about 30 new cases were being found each month , compared to 1,000 a month at the height of the epidemic in 1993 .

The number of infected cattle in 1999 was 30.5 per cent lower than the same period in 1998. Almost two-thirds of herds with breeding cattle have never had a case of BSE.

However, 63 people had died of vCJD by the end of June 2000 , with three provisional victims who had already died and a further seven still alive but believed to have the disease.

On Sunday, the Government said there was no new outbreak of BSE. There was only one confirmed case of BSE in July, a spokesman said.

24 Sep 00 - CJD - New BSE outbreak linked to blood in feed

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

Sunday Times ... Sunday 24 September 2000

Up to eight cows have contracted BSE in an outbreak that scientists believe could be linked to the continued use of bovine blood in cattle feed .

The emergence of the disease has alarmed scientists because all the animals were born after the 1996 introduction of measures that should have eradicated BSE. Agriculture ministry officials had predicted that no animal born after this date would become infected.

Some scientists have linked the latest casualties to the decision by agriculture ministers to exclude cows' blood from the ban on using material from cows in their feed.

The practice has continued despite warnings from senior scientists. John Collinge, the Medical Research Council's professor of prion research and who has briefed Tony Blair on BSE, said: "All cannibalistic recycling is potentially dangerous and I have said that repeatedly."

Of the eight cows, one has been positively confirmed with BSE; the others displayed symptoms of the disease and their carcasses are being tested.

The confirmed BSE cow was born in Devon in August 1996 and records reveal that the farm was clear of meat and bone meal - the feed suspected of spreading BSE.

Agriculture ministry figures reveal that 22,000 tons of cow material, including blood, gelatin and tallow, are fed to cows each year .

A ban on the use of cows' offal, spines, bones and brains in their feed has been rigorously enforced since 1996.

Over the past year, however, it has become increasingly clear that blood from infected animals does carry prions .

Some scientists on the government's BSE advisory committee now believe that it is time to review the use of blood in feed . A spokesman for Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, said he was aware of the concerns and would consider any recommendations.

22 Sep 00 - CJD - Australia bans blood of travellers to UK

Patrick Barkham in Sydney

Guardian ... Friday 22 September 2000

People who lived in Britain for more than six months between 1980 and 1996 are being banned from giving blood in Australia in the light of last week's Scottish research finding that mad cow disease can be transmitted by blood transfusion .

The Australian government announced the decision yesterday in response to the Institute for Animal Health's finding that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) can be transferred from infected to non-infected sheep by blood transfusion.

The ban will be phased in over three months and there are fears that it could leave Australia's already dwindling blood banks almost dry. With much of normal life in the city suspended for the duration of the Olympic Games, blood supplies are said to be stretched. Donations have dropped 50% since the games began.

"If 30,000 people simply dropped out of the system today, Australia's blood supplies would be in a perilous state," the health minister, Michael Wooldridge, said.

The ban will affect between 25,000 and 30,000 donors, reducing Australia's blood supplies by up to 5.5% . Australians who spent only six months in the UK during the relevant period are exempted.

The government has promised A$1.614m (620,000) to recruit new donors, but because travelling and working in the UK has been a rite of passage for many young Australians, up to 500,000 potential donors could be banned.

Dr Wooldridge said: "This is a precautionary measure which takes into consideration the balance of risk between a possible but remote link between vCJD [the human form of BSE] and blood and the very real risk of not having enough blood in Australia for life saving procedures."

The US, Canada and New Zealand have similar bans.

19 Sep 00 - CJD - Blood ban on visitors to Britain

By Barbie Dutter in Sydney

Telegraph ... Tuesday 19 September 2000

Tens of thousands of people who have spent more than six months in Britain are likely to be banned from giving blood in Australia .

The move is an effort to prevent the spread of the human form of mad cow disease. It follows Scottish research which indicates that new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can be transmitted through blood transfusions.

The Australian Red Cross said up to 30,000 of its established donors were likely to be affected, reducing the blood supply by at least five per cent .

The ban would also cover many thousands more potential donors who spent six months or more in Britain and ate beef products between 1980 and 1996.

Serena Williams, a spokesman for the Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge, said the ban would not be enforced until February or March, to give blood banks time to recruit new donors.

18 Sep 00 - CJD - Bad news on the way?

UK Correspondent

UK ... Monday 18 September 2000

In the past weeks we have had worrying news: vCJD transmission via blood products has been confirmed, maternal transmission is highly probable, apparently non-infected humans may act as carriers, and vCJD may be transmitted by red as well as white blood cells.

Additionally, BSE may have been passed to sheep where it is difficult to distinguish from scrapie. It seems that it is not possible to remove the potentially infected material from sheep carcasses in the same way as cattle. Consequently, the future of sheep farming in the UK is now open to question.

Rumours of the discontinuation of the use of UK sourced plasma altogether and the use of disposable surgical instruments across the board in the NHS have been published.

Finally, the results of the huge testing programme (for vCJD) on stored body parts removed during surgery over many years have not been published.

Be prepared for bad news .

18 Sep 00 - CJD - Mother may have passed CJD to baby

Paul Kelso

Guardian ... Monday 18 September 2000

A baby may have contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob (vCJD) disease from her mother while in the womb , according to doctors who have examined the 11-month-old girl.

The child, whose mother died of the debilitating brain disease in May, is brain damaged and suffers from convulsions. Doctors have not identified any clear causal ailment.

Only an autopsy can conclusively verify a case of vCJD, but if confirmed it would be the first evidence that the disease can be passed to unborn children through the placenta and will strengthen fears that the disease can be transmitted through blood .

Last week researchers at the Institute for Animal Health produced evidence that BSE can be transferred to other species via blood transfusion. Sheep injected with BSE-infected blood developed a variant of the disease.

The child's grandmother, who is also her legal guardian, said that doctors treating the child suspect that vCJD prions had been passed to the baby in the womb.

"They don't know if it's gone into incubation. If so it could be years before we finally confirm the disease," she said.

Doctors say the child is growing at half the normal rate for a girl of her age and has poor sight and stiff limbs. Her appendix has been examined for evidence of vCJD but the tests were inconclusive. The child, who comes from Warwickshire and cannot be named for legal reasons, is being treated at a London hospital.

Richard Lacey, a professor of medical microbiology at Leeds University, said he believed it was inevitable that mothers infected with the disease would pass it on to their children. "The only thing that is uncertain is the scale on which it is happening ," he said.

In 1996 the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food confirmed that BSE could be passed from pregnant cows to unborn offspring, and the same has been observed in sheep, rats and mice.

The Department of Health moved to allay fears surrounding the case, stressing that vCJD cases are only identifiable postmortem. "There is no evidence as yet from any where in the world that vCJD can be passed from mother to child," said a spokesman.

Nineteen people have died from vCJD this year, making it the worst year since the outbreak began in May 1995. Four people died last month and eight people are suspected of having the disease. Seventy-four people in total have died from the disease.

Most vCJD victims are presumed to have been infected by cheap cuts of beef or mechanically recovered mea t typically used in beefburgers before 1989, when parts of the animal thought most hazardous to human health were banned.

The government BSE inquiry team is due to report at the end of the month and is expected to criticise government officials and senior ministers for not acting quickly enough to ensure rules were not flouted. The probable link between BSE-infected beef and probable vCJD deaths and cheap cuts of beef was first established in 1996, seven years after the first BSE outbreak.

Frances Hall, the secretary of the Human BSE Foundation, whose son Peter died from vCJD in 1996, said the latest development would be of great concern to families of children born to other women who have died of the disease.

"The families have always been frightened about the possibility of it passing to unborn children. There are a number of babies to women who have died but those children are still healthy," she said.

18 Sep 00 - CJD - CJD victim may have infected her unborn baby

By Helen Rumbelow, Medical Reporter

Times ... Monday 18 September 2000

A baby whose mother died of the human version of "mad cow" disease is showing symptoms of the same illness , doctors said yesterday.

The 11-month-old girl was born unable to swallow, is half the normal weight for her age and suffers from stiff limbs and convulsions. A scan shows that she has brain damage.

She could be the first known case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) being passed from mother to child and suggests that Britain could be plagued by the illness for generations .

Diagnosis is proving difficult: four specialists who examined the baby found no other explanation for her symptoms but tests on tissue from her appendix and lymph system proved inconclusive.

Her mother, a 24-year-old caterer from Nottingham, developed signs of vCJD while pregnant and died in May. She entrusted the child's care to her 50-year-old grandmother, who has started a compensation claim against the Government on behalf of the child.

"The appalling thing is that I am watching my granddaughter die while the Government fails to warn others that they may be passing the disease on," she said.

She said that doctors believed the infectious agents of vCJD had been passed on to the baby in the womb, causing brain damage. "They don't know if it's gone into incubation, so it could be years before we can finally confirm the disease," she said.

The Department of Health said: "There is no evidence as yet from anywhere in the world that vCJD can pass from mother to child. But we are currently monitoring the situation."

Richard Lacey, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Leeds University, said he believed that it was inevitable that mothers infected with vCJD would pass the illness to their offspring through the placenta.

This theory is supported by a report in The Lancet last week suggesting that vCJD could be passed through blood.

"The only thing that is uncertain is the scale on which it is happening," Professor Lacey said.

The Ministry of Agriculture said in 1996 that a pregnant cow could pass BSE to its unborn calf and the same has been observed in laboratory rats. The mechanism for transmission is still unclear.

17 Sep 00 - CJD - Mother passes on CJD to unborn baby

By Rajeev Syal, Jenny Booth and Chris Hastings

Telegraph ... Sunday 17 September 2000

Doctors believe that a baby girl has been born with new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease. Her mother died of the illness earlier this year.

Four specialists who have examined the 11-month-old girl believe that she is exhibiting the symptoms of vCJD and that she contracted the condition in the womb . The Telegraph knows the identity of the child, but cannot name her for legal reasons.

(UK Correspondent's note: This articles relates to a previous article dated 5 March 2000 in the Sunday Times, which is included in this archive - to access it return to the index page and select the archive which includes the aforementioned date. The baby was delivered by caesarean section in a West Midlands hospital and the surgical instruments were reused on other mothers. The authorities have probably arranged for the patients name and the identity of the hospital not to be published in order to avoid future litigation should any of the patients the instruments were reused on contract vCJD).

The specialists have passed on their findings to the child's grandmother after tests failed to detect any other ailment in the girl. Only a post-mortem examination, however, can offer conclusive proof of vCJD.

If confirmed, this would be the first known example of vCJD being transmitted from mother to child , and will heighten fears that the disease can be transmitted through blood . One leading microbiologist believes that some of the 67 people who have already died of vCJD may have inherited it from their mothers, rather than contracting it from eating infected meat.

The baby's 50-year-old grandmother, who is now her legal guardian, said the doctors suspected that prions - the infectious agents believed to cause the disease - had been passed on to the baby in the womb and had given her brain damage.

She said: "They don't know if it's gone into incubation. If so, it could be years before we can finally confirm the disease." The health of the child has been the subject of speculation since her mother died of vCJD in May, seven months after giving birth. The girl was found to have brain damage and has been suffering from fits and convulsions.

Doctors have said that she is growing at half the normal rate for a child of her age and suffers from poor sight and abnormally stiff limbs. Her appendix has been examined by doctors looking for signs of vCJD, but the tests proved inconclusive. She will undergo further brain scans later this year.

On Friday, The Lancet reported research by scientists at the Institute for Animal Health confirming for the first time that BSE can be transmitted in sheep by infected blood transfusions . The finding increases the likelihood that a vCJD-infected mother could pass on the disease to her baby.

Richard Lacey , the emeritus professor of medical microbiology at Leeds University, said that it was "inevitable " that infected mothers would pass on vCJD through the placenta. He said: "The only thing that is uncertain is the scale on which it is happening." New variant CJD, a fatal disease of the brain and nervous system, is believed to have been transmitted to humans through eating beef infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The Ministry of Agriculture admitted in 1996 that a pregnant cow could pass BSE to its unborn calf. Maternal transmission also occurs in sheep, rats and mice. Scientists have observed that offspring often develop the disease more virulently than the parent and after a much shorter incubation period.

Until now, researchers have been baffled at the youth of the 67 people known to have died of vCJD. Their average age is 27. Most victims were aged 18 to 40. Dr Rob Will, of the National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, has suggested that the victims caught the disease through eating cheap mechanically recovered meat used in school meals or even baby food . Dr Lacey however suspects that some may have contracted the illness from their mothers .

The Telegraph has also learnt that the Department of Health is now considering the use of disposable surgical instruments throughout the NHS because of growing concern that blood and tissue from vCJD carriers could remain infectious even after sterilisation.

As this newspaper revealed four years ago, tissue from such patients is capable of passing ordinary CJD to healthy patients, yet current standards for sterilising equipment are not adequate to destroy the prions.

17 Sep 00 - CJD - Tragic inheritance of baby 'born with CJD'

By Rajeev Syal, Chris Hastings and Jenny Booth

Telegraph ... Sunday 17 September 2000

The dark-haired baby attracts admiring glances wherever she goes. She has her mother's striking blue eyes, says her adoring grandmother.

Medical experts believe, however, that she is the first child to inherit the disease which killed her mother, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, while still in the womb.

The child's 50-year-old grandmother, who has to feed the 11-month-old girl through a tube, said: "Every time I look at her, I see the agony that my daughter endured in her last days . Seeing my own child die in agony nearly killed me and now I am terrified that I will also see my grandchild die in the same way ."

For months she suspected that her granddaughter was suffering from the symptoms of vCJD. Over recent weeks, her worst fears have been confirmed by doctors from the leading London hospital that is treating her grandchild.

The tragedy began in July 1998, when the woman's 22-year-old daughter - who ran her own catering business - became moody, tired and constantly tearful. Her daughter's frequent outbursts of temper were untypical; the two normally lived harmoniously together in a semi-detatched home in a Warwickshire village. By February last year, the young woman had become pregnant.

She developed severe back trouble and, five months into her pregnancy, had to give up work. She could hardly move her arms and legs and had to be helped around the house. Other symptoms included pins and needles in her legs and swollen and sore lips.

Doctors were mystified as to the cause of the illness. In October, to try to protect mother and child, the baby girl was delivered by Caesarean section weighing 6lb 4oz. Immediately, however, the doctors were aware that the little girl had difficulties swallowing and she was placed in a special baby care unit. The family was told by doctors two days after the birth that the baby probably had brain damage. The specialists decided to conduct a series of tests on the child.

The family had begun to guess the truth . The dead woman's mother recalled: "I had spoken to someone who told me that their relative had died of CJD, and I had seen the news reports on television about cows. Then it dawned on me; my daughter's moods and the jerky movements she had begun to suffer were similar. It was an awful moment."

By January, vCJD was confirmed in the mother by a biopsy on her tonsils - a procedure that is 98 per cent accurate.After this she was warned that her baby may also have contracted the disease.The young woman was virtually confined to a wheelchair and her memory was so bad that she sometimes failed to recognise her mother and her child. The baby's father had moved away from the area.

Doctors tried to discover if her baby also had vCJD, but because the case was unique, and hampered by the poor health of the child, they were not sure how to reach a diagnosis.

In May, the child's mother died after months of suffering. In the same month, doctors removed the little girl's appendix and took samples of her lymph tissue in the hope that an analysis would show whether she was carrying the prions - aberrant proteins - that caused the disease that killed her mother.

According to the baby's grandmother, the tests carried out by the doctors were necessarily inconclusive because vCJD infection can only be finally confirmed after death through a post-mortem. They nevertheless believe that her granddaughter has been suffering from the effects of vCJD from the time of her conception.

Caring for her dead daughter's child has now become the focus of the woman's life, and it is proving to be a daunting task. Her granddaughter's eyesight has been affected, and it is impossible to know how much she can see. Her limbs are stiff and she needs physiotherapy. She sleeps a lot of the time, as her mother did when she was ill. Last week she was suffering fits and convulsions, and doctors have said that she is growing at half the normal rate. She is to undergo further examinations by vCJD specialists later this year.

Her grandmother said: "The appalling thing is that I am watching my granddaughter die while the Government fails to warn others that they may be passing the disease on. I want this baby's case highlighted because no other family should go through what we have been through,"

17 Sep 00 - CJD - 'No evidence' baby got CJD in womb caught womb

By Paul Lashmar

Independent ... Sunday 17 September 2000

Health experts moved yesterday to calm fears over variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease after a report that an11-month old baby had contracted the disease from her mother in the womb.

The Department of Health said it knew of no evidence that a baby could contract the disease before or after birth from maternal transmission.

(UK Correspondent's note: the phrase "no evidence" has been the mantra of MAFF and the DoH for the entire BSE crisis. From 1984 to 1996 there was "no evidence" that BSE could be transmitted to humans, then suddenly there was.)

A spokesman said: "It is almost impossible to say if anyone has vCJD before their death but there is no evidence as yet from anywhere in the world that vCJD can be passed from mother to child."

The Department of Health refused to comment on any individual case but was sceptical of claims that four unnamed specialists had concluded that the baby had vCJD.

If the specialists' diagnosis is confirmed it would be the first case of a mother passing the disease on to a child and would suggest that the incubation time for the disease was much shorter than previously suspected. The Sunday Telegraph said the case "will heighten fears that the disease can be transmitted through the blood".

The health of the child has been a matter for concern since her mother died of vCJD in the West Midlands in May, seven months after giving birth.

The baby girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found to have been brain damaged and has had fits and convulsions. Doctors say that she is growing at half the normal rate and suffers from poor sight and abnormally stiff limbs.

The Department of Health said the only proof of vCJD came from post-mortem tests on the brain. The spokesman said: "There are other kinds of test which might give an indication of vCJD but it is still impossible to say for sure."

The department said that 83 people were believed to have contracted vCJD in Britain. Eight are still alive. Although the age of the victims is relatively young - the average is 27 - no one younger than a teenager has yet been confirmed to have contracted the disease. Several sufferers have had young children but none of those has shown signs of the disease so far.

17 Sep 00 - CJD - Gummer to take brunt of blame in BSE report

By Colin Brown, Political Editor

Independent ... Sunday 17 September 2000

John Gummer , the former Tory agriculture minister, is to take the brunt of criticism in the soon-to-be-published BSE inquiry report. In particular it will condemn his action in feeding his four-year-old daughter with a beefburger in a publicity stunt designed to reassure the public that beef was safe.

Mr Gummer caused controversy when he fed his daughter Cordelia a burger in front of press photographers as the fears were growing that "mad-cow disease" could be transmitted to humans.

Mr Gummer, who was at Agriculture from 1989 to 1993, was incensed when told by the independent inquiry team, headed by Lord Phillips, that he would be criticised for the way he presented assurances by the government, based on scientific advice at the time. "I am being criticised not for what I did but the way I said it," he has told friends.

The photographs of Mr Gummer's daughter tasting a burger in May 1990 were taken after media approaches to the ministry for photos of Mr Gummer at an agricultural event. Former press officers from the ministry have told the inquiry that there was no carefully thought-out strategy for presenting the assurances to the public. They said the stunt with the burger was spontaneous, not part of a media plan.

There were 53 referrals of cases with suspected CJD in 1990, and alarm was rising about the safety of beef, but it was six years later that ministers were told that the National CJD Surveillance Unit had discovered the human form of mad-cow disease, variant CJD and a probable link with BSE.

The latest figures show that the death toll is still growing. There were 82 cases this year, and the total could rise still further, making this one of the worst years on record for the disease. No one knows how many more cases there could be. Many are young people, and the disease, which causes extreme stress to victims and their families, is incurable.

Ex-ministerial colleagues of Mr Gummer believe the inquiry is unfair in blaming him for the public presentation of the health assurances. As first disclosed in The Independent on Sunday, William Hague is braced for criticism by the two-year inquiry of the handling of the scandal by the Tory government of which he was a member. Its report is to be given to the Prime Minister at the end of this month and published when the Commons returns in October, after publication of the next CJD figures.

The former ministers in the firing line of the Lord Phillips's inquiry report include John MacGregor , who had expected to escape criticism, and Douglas Hogg , who was heavily criticised at the time for his handling of the crisis, but who also insisted on tougher measures than the ministry's scientists.

Officials are likely to bear much of the criticism for being too slow to respond, buck-passing , and failing to ensure that a ban on the use of specified offal was properly enforced on the slaughterhouses to stop it entering the food chain.

Keith Meldrum, chief veterinary officer at the agriculture ministry for much of the period, told the inquiry: "Neither I nor my colleagues in MAFF [the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food] had responsibility for advising the public on public health issues."

17 Sep 00 - CJD - Blood donors feared to have spread CJD

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

Sunday Times ... Sunday 17 September 2000

Blood donated by seven people who subsequently developed variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease, may have infected transfusion products given to many more patients , it was revealed this weekend.

The National Blood Authority has confirmed that some of the blood taken from the seven was pooled - mixed with the blood or blood products of many other donors - before it was distributed to hospitals .

The number of people who may have been affected is unknown. The authority has objected to suggestions that thousands are at risk , but has no estimates of its own.

The revelations follow experiments which show that blood from sheep that are incubating BSE but have no symptoms can transmit the disease to other sheep. Humans are equally vulnerable: blood taken from anybody incubating vCJD could theoretically spread the disease to people given blood products .

Such a case has not yet been seen with blood, although dozens of people contracted a slightly different form of CJD after being given a human growth hormone that had been extracted from corpses.

Blood from donors is usually split into its components, such as red cells, which carry oxygen; plasma, with white cells that help fight infection; and platelets, which aid clotting.

This weekend the authority confirmed that it is now considering a complete ban on the use of plasma from British donors . Most plasma is already imported, but about 100,000 units come from within Britain. The possibility that recipients of transfusions have been infected may also disqualify them from becoming blood donors.

Carlene Dyas, a spokeswoman for the authority, confirmed that the blood donated by the seven vCJD victims was taken before 1999, when the authority introduced new safety procedures designed to remove prions, the infectious proteins thought to transmit vCJD. She said: "It is very worrying , but there is nothing to show that what happens in sheep does apply to humans."

Dyas said most of the blood recipients could not be traced because records were not sufficiently detailed. More than a dozen patients known to have received blood products from people who later developed vCJD have been identified, but will not be told of the danger.

The problem is reminiscent of the spread of HIV in the 1980s when blood products transmitted the Aids virus to more than 1,200 haemophiliacs. The mistake cost the government 80m in compensation payments.

Professor Peter Smith, acting chairman of the government's spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee, confirmed there was a risk: "The concern with pooled blood products is that, as with growth hormone, an infection in one person could be spread."

Smith also acknowledged that the measures taken so far to prevent donated blood infecting others may be insufficient . Since last year, all Britishdonated blood has been stripped of its white cells, which are thought most likely to carry the infectious prion particles. Recent research indicates, however, that prions may also be carried by red cells .