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Compensation for the "worried well" ?
Disease kills woman who was vegetarian for 13 years
Hoarding of Immune Globulin suspected
Shoot the messenger: Dr. Richard Lacey fired from post?
BSE carcasses missing
U.S. study raises new worries on mad cow disease

Disease kills woman who was vegetarian for 13 years

 April 23 1998 	Times  BY MICHAEL HORNSBY AGRICULTURE CORRESPONDENT
A WOMAN who had been a strict vegetarian for the past 13 years died yesterday from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Clare Tomkins, 24, had been found to be suffering last August from the new strain of CJD linked to eating infected beef.

She died in the arms of her father, Roger, a company director, at the family's home at East Peckham in Kent, where she had been bedridden and comatose. Last month Mr Tomkins gave a moving and graphic account of the progress of her illness to the BSE inquiry chaired by Sir Nicholas Phillips, describing how she had "howled like an injured animal".

Mr Tomkins said last night: "Clare had been slightly deteriorating over the last couple of weeks but she passed away very peacefully in my arms. The important thing for us is that she is now at peace. She has been at home now for eight months and has really fought hard. We have had so much to talk to her about. Even if she has not responded, we have assumed she has been listening."

Miss Tomkins' case was unusual because the first official diagnosis of BSE was in 1986, a year after she had stopped eating meat. Scientists now believe that considerable numbers of cattle incubating the disease passed into the food chain before then and that Miss Tomkins must have eaten infected meat from one of them. If this hypothesis is correct, it suggests that the incubation for new-variant CJD in humans must be at least 12 years.

Before Miss Tomkins died, officially recorded deaths from the disease stood at 24. Scientists diagnosed her condition from a biopsy of her tonsils. Normally, it is possible to make a definitive diagnosis only by post-mortem examination of the brain. Before she fell ill, Miss Tomkins worked in the pet department of a garden centre near her home in Tonbridge, Kent. She first showed signs of abnormal behaviour in 1996.

Mr Tomkins told the BSE inquiry that his daughter had been a healthy seven stone, but then began losing weight and suffering from unpredictable mood swings. She was prescribed anti-depressants and given electro-convulsive therapy before a correct diagnosis was made.

Meanwhile, the parents of a man who died last October from new-variant CJD are demanding an inquest into his death. Chris Warne, 36, was a computer analyst and a keen sportsman. His parents, Terry and Shirley, are seeking legal advice on whether they can challenge the refusal of the Derby Coroner to hold an inquest, usually held only when a death is deemed to be violent or unnatural.

"We feel Chris was poisoned and it should not have happened ... that somebody killed him," Mr Warne said. "We saw our son go from a young man as fit as a fiddle to comatose."

Jockey who quit blames fear of developing CJD

April 23 1998 	Times Dominic Kennedy 
A FORMER apprentice jockey at the stables of the champion trainer Henry Cecil has lost the ability to ride because he is so frightened of getting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from a human growth hormone, the High Court was told yesterday.

David Lockhart's plight was used to illustrate the fate of 35 people who say they have suffered psychological damage after being treated as children because they were too short. Already 23 patients have died and two are dying from CJD, an incurable condition that can take two years to rob its victims of movement and speech.

The hormone had been "harvested" from the pituitary glands of human bodies after post-mortem examinations. Some of it probably became infected when it was stored in batches. More than 1,900 patients were treated between 1959 and 1985. The High Court has already ruled that the Department of Health must pay compensation to people with CJD whose treatment began from July 1977, by which time warning signs should have alerted the medical establishment.

The case which began yesterday is over compensation for the "worried well": people who have not contracted the illness, but whose lives have been ruined by the fear that they will get it. Mr Lockhart, 27, began treatment for his lack of growth at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow between the ages of eight and 15, when the therapy was dropped nationally because three patients had died in the United States. He worked for Lester Piggott before joining the Cecil stable in Newmarket, becoming an apprentice.

In 1992 he saw a Channel 4 documentary about the risks of CJD. Within months he developed general aches and pains. He stopped racing in 1995. A doctor found that Mr Lockhart was concerned about losing his balance and this was affecting his job as a jockey. By last May Mr Lockhart was worried that his hands were becoming shaky.

A doctor diagnosed an adjustment disorder and chronic hyperventilation syndrome. Last summer Mr Lockhart was worrying more about CJD. On Monday this week, he told Mr Cecil that he was unable to ride. He leaves the stables in a fortnight.

"His statements indicate the deterioration in his mental condition as he becomes ever more anxious that he may be developing early symptoms of CJD," Stephen Irwin, QC, told the court.

Paul Andrews, 32, of Bromley, Kent, was earning 35,000 pounds a year, plus car and bonus, when he gave up his job as a business development manager in 1993 out of anxiety that he was developing CJD. A doctor had already told him that he did not have the illness, but he suffers from a pathological worry about it. Thinking he was going to die, Mr Andrews decided to move back home to spend more time with his family and also to travel abroad.

He developed such acute claustrophobia that he was too frightened to get into a car or Underground train. He has since qualified as a teacher and is working part-time in primary schools. Mr Andrews told the court that, in 1992, a specialist at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, told him that there had been deaths in Britain and that he could be affected.

"I was in shock and it felt weird. If you have got a nightmare scenario in your mind and then a doctor tells you and confirms that it could be true, it is very stressful. "It was very difficult to do anything. I was always a person who prided myself on being able to cope with things."

He was feeling constantly tired, vomiting in the morning and once fell asleep at his desk. "If I didn't give up work and do something about it, I would completely crack up and end up in an asylum. "It makes it difficult for me to get married or have children, it means I will not be able to start a family. I have not been involved with anyone since."

He gave up his ambition to stand for Parliament as a Conservative. Claire Johnstone, 29, has decided against having children because of the risk of transmitting CJD in the womb. The Department of Health has admitted liability in cases of four people whose treatment straddled 1977, including Donald Spear, the dispatch rider whose cheerful attitude to death was reported in The Times.

Vegetarian woman dies from `mad cow' disease

Apr. 22/98 PA News
Clare Tomkins, 25, who has been vegetarian for the past 12 years died today from the human form of mad cow disease. She was diagnosed with new strain Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease last August. She had been in an advanced state of CJD since then and needed nursing 24 hours a day. She was fed through a tube directly into her stomach.

Her father, company director Roger Tomkins, said: "Clare died peacefully early this morning. I would like to thank everybody for the support they have given us since Clare's illness was diagnosed."

According to the article, the case was highly unusual because the first clinical case of BSE was recorded in cattle in 1986 - a year after Clare stopped eating meat. Her diagnosis triggered fears that the incubation period could be longer than previously believed.

At the time she was diagnosed Mr Tomkins said: "When we told doctors Clare had been vegetarian since 1985 there were a few raised eyebrows. They were very, very surprised. Clare was a very strict vegetarian, though she did eat cheese and drink milk. Before she became ill she was always telling jokes and everybody loved her."

Mr Tomkins said Clare was a healthy seven stone, but then began losing weight and suffering from what appeared to be depression. She was prescribed anti-depressants and given electro-convulsive therapy before being diagnosed with CJD after a biopsy on her tonsils. She is thought to be the 22nd person to contract and die from so-called new strain CJD. Comments:

Debora MacKenzie, science journalist, Brussels 23 Apr 98
"Clare Tomkins, the British vegetarian who just died of nv-CJD, stopped eating meat in 1985, a year before the first official case of BSE in cattle. Of course that does not rule out infection from eating meat before 1985 -- obviously there was infection in cattle before official recognition, and I believe Kent, where she lived, was infected early.

But she also worked in the pet department of a garden centre. That means she would have been handling, and constantly around, bags of dried pet food. As I understand it, most of that stuff contains meat and bone meal, recovered meat and offal. It also sheds fine particulate matter. Does anyone have any ideas about the extent to which inhaling such dust on an occupational basis might constitute a route of infection?

One could argue, of course, that if you can develop nv-CJD from just inhaling kibble dust, then we should have seen more TSEs in animals, and pet food plant workers. But we don't know whether pet species might have more resistance to the agent (I believe carnivores are supposed to have better resistance than we do to many of the parasites and other nasties the rest of us tend to get from eating meat). It is also possible that inhalation could be more efficient than ingestion as a route of infection. Animals only figuratively inhale the stuff. And plant workers are supposed to wear masks in dusty areas."

Comment [webmaster 23 Apr 98]:

We don't support press rubbish on this site about the 'first official case' dating to November 1986 (the Colin Whitaker case which dates to April 1985). The first official case was confirmed in a post mortem report by Carol Richardson, from the Central Veterinary Laboratory, dated Sept 19 1985 (spongiform encephalopathy in brain tissue from a Fresian from Peter Stent's farm near Midhurst, West Sussex). She said seven others had earlier been lost with "nervous" symptoms. A vet, David Bee, had seen the first cases before Christmas 1984. Bee gave testimony indicating even earlier cases back to about 1980 at the Inquiry.

If you want to see a photostate of her signed diagnosis (confirmed at the time by her supervisor), it's on this site. In fact, GA Wells himself, the head honcho, reviewed her report and changed the vacuolation from mild to moderate.

So the epidemic was underway for years in some parts of England well before Clare Tomkins became a vegetarian.

Six seek damages over `mad cow' fears

 PA News Wed, Apr 22, 1998  By Cathy Gordon and Jan Colley, PA News.
Six people who live in fear of developing the human form of "mad cow" disease launched a High Court test case today to claim damages for psychiatric injury. The court in London was told they were all "negligently" treated as children with human growth hormone and say they have developed a psychiatric illness as a result of being told that they may be incubating the CJD (Creutzfeld Jakob Disease) agent.

The plaintiffs - Paul Andrews, from Putney, London; Neil Scanlon from Ebbw Vale, Cardiff; David Lockhart from Newmarket, Suffolk; Philip Johnston >from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs, his sister Claire who lives near Cheadle, Staffs, and Justin Parkes from Essex - are representative cases for a group of 35 people treated with growth hormone from corpses after July 1, 1977, and who now fear they will contract the incurable fatal illness.

Their counsel Stephen Irwin QC told Mr Justice Morland that in the cases of Paul Andrews, 32, Neil Scanlon, 36, David Lockhart, 27, and Philip Johnston, 25, it was accepted by the defendant, the Secretary of State for Health, that psychiatric illness had been caused by learning of the risk of developing CJD.

"In those cases the dispute between the parties is as to the nature and severity of the illness and the extent of damages which may be recoverable."

In the so-called "mild" cases of Claire Johnston, 29, and Justin Parkes, 27, the defendant considered that no psychiatric illness has been sustained, said Mr Irwin. The CJD litigation was started in 1996 by parents of children who died after being given growth hormone extracted from corpses to combat dwarfism. Between 1959 and 1985 nearly two thousand children in the UK whose growth was stunted because of a deficiency in the secretion of growth hormone in their pituitaries were treated with hormone from the pituitary glands of cadavers. The programme was brought to an end in May 1985 after several children who had been treated in the US died of CJD.

In July 1996 Mr Justice Morland ruled that the Department of Health was negligent in not heeding the warning of Dr Alan Dickinson, who in 1977 told the Medical Research Council about the risk of contracting CJD from the hormone treatment. Last year people who were given the hormone treatment and claim they have suffered a psychiatric illness brought on by fear of contracting the disease were given the go-ahead by the same judge to seek compensation.

Mr Irwin told the court today of the kind of psychological symptoms displayed by plaintiffs, including sleep disruption, anxiety about marriage, sex and reproduction and the transmissibility of the CJD agent. There was also the fear that physical signs, such as faintness or lethargy, were the early signs of the development of CJD.

Counsel told the judge that there was also a difficulty in being able to obtain any lasting resolution of anxieties about CJD. "The last point means that for many plaintiffs counselling is of little or no use since the threat of CJD cannot be removed." He said that at the close of a CJD hearing in May 1996 there were 16 recipients of the growth hormone who had died or who were dying of CJD. "Less than two years on, the total number of those who have died or who are dying has risen to 27.

"If the number of casualties increases substantially there may well be cases where a plaintiff manifests a serious deterioration in their mental condition."

Mr Irwin said of the case of the six plaintiffs: "Theirs is not the experience of being in an horrific incident, but rather the recurring anxiety and fear of being about to be part of a horrific incident: the decline into a dementia for which there is no cure." They are asking the court to award "provisional" damages because they are at risk of developing CJD and on the basis that there may be a serious deterioration in their mental health. Such a deterioration could be caused, said counsel, if there was an increase in the numbers of patients who had been treated with the growth hormone developing CJD.

Mr Irwin said that as a direct result of the defendant's negligence, the six were exposed to the reasonably foreseeable risk of psychiatric damage. He described CJD as "an illness with a prolonged incubation period and an agonising and invariably fatal neurodegenerative progression".

The case of jockey David Lockhart illustrated the continuing nature of the anxiety about developing CJD. "His statements indicate the deterioration in his mental condition as he becomes ever more anxious that he may be developing early symptoms of CJD. "He lives with the uncertainty of developing an illness which continues to be of intense scrutiny by the press and the scientific community. "His uncertainty is reinforced by the lack of any test to say whether or not he may develop the disease or of any way of quantifying the risk that he is incubating the CJD agent."

Mr Irwin said Mr Lockhart had been working in the stables of Henry Cecil, the well-known trainer at Newmarket, but had lost his nerve, could not get on a horse, and lost that job. Nurse Philip Johnson, was able to continue working effectively, but his "life has been changed very considerably by his condition", said Mr Irwin. His sister Claire, developed a "chronic adjustment disorder" as a result of learning of the risk of developing CJD. Her sleep continued to be affected and she believed that she should not have children because of the risk of transmitting the CJD agent to the foetus.

Factory worker Neil Scanlon was unable to continue his job because of recurrent intrusive thoughts about CJD and had been unable to return to work. Mr Irwin said: "Although he has received counselling and psychotropic medication he continues to be severely psychologically disabled." Justin Parkes, 27, suffered an acute stress reaction followed by a generalised anxiety disorder.

Former high-flying City worker Paul Andrews suffered from a significant depressive illness with associated phobias and marked anxieties, said Mr Irwin. At school the plaintiff was very small but very active, popular and brave, and captain of sport at his primary school. He was an ambitious high achiever and after gaining a degree at Aberystwyth, he went into a marketing company in the City where, by 1991, he was earning the considerable annual salary of 35,000 plus perks. He had since qualified as a teacher and works on a supply basis and has also participated in radio and TV programmes about CJD. He had not had a proper relationship for seven years.

Mr Andrews gave evidence to the court telling of how he had feared he was the first in Britain to contract CJD following his treatment years earlier with the growth hormone. He said that in 1991 he informed a doctor of his fears and was told that people had already died of the disease in this country. His reaction, he said, was: "Why didn't anyone tell me?"

Mr Andrews, who was treated with the hormone between September/October 1977 and September 1983, first heard about the connection between the treatment and CJD on a Radio 4 programme in May 1985. He started to feel tired and ill during 1991 and began to become anxious that he was showing the early signs of CJD. Mr Andrews was tested to see if he had CJD and was told in February 1992 that he did not. He said he was told he should be tested every year. He described how he felt "worry and shock" at the news he might be at risk.

Mr Andrews resigned his job as a business development manager in October 1993: "I basically said to myself that if I didn't leave work I would completely crack up." When deciding to leave his job he had thought:"What's the point of earning all this money when I could be dead in six months." He also had political ambitions which he abandoned. Late in 1994 he began to suffer acute claustrophobia and panic attacks. Mr Andrews said he still feels claustrophobic at times, a completely overwhelming feeling of panic. He said he tried to avoid situations which put him in that state of mind, but they still arose. He did not use trains or the tube and had to wind down electric windows if he was travelling by car. "Wherever I go I am always looking for an emergency exit."

Asked about his social and personal life he commented:"I cope by not doing things." He still had suicidal thoughts, but consideration for his family prevented him acting on them. When he heard the "nightmare scenario" that others had already died from CJD he was "all over the place". "Everyone has to live day to day, but I damn well do have to live day to day and that's the real change for me in a nutshell." After resigning from his job he travelled extensively:"I went to see the places I wanted to see just in case anything happened. "I just took off and that was therapeutic and then you have to come back and confront things."

Asked about the change of direction his life could have taken without the fear of CJD he said:"Realistically, I could well have been sitting in the House of Commons." "Realistically, I would now have a nice big house and big car with children."

The hearing, which is expected to last several weeks, continues tomorrow with evidence from Mr Scanlon. After hearing the psychiatric illness claims the judge will go on to deal with other damages actions involving 17 cases of people who have lost a family member to CJD through the human growth hormone treatment. Those cases are expected to begin early next week.

Inspectors suspended in BSE carcasses probe

Apr. 22/98 PA News John Deane
During an inquiry by Wrexham County Council, it was revealed that four livestock inspectors have been suspended following allegations of documentary discrepancies at an incineration plant, the Cluttons company, used to dispose of BSE-infected cattle.

The article reported that the four staff were suspended by the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC), which oversees the destruction procedure, and will remain off work until the outcome of the County Council inquiry and another investigation by the MLC.

The inquiries focus on concerns about the number of carcasses actually destroyed, compared with the number the plant was supposed to process under planning regulations.

Forms used by MLC employees as part of internal procedures were examined and appeared to show fewer carcasses destroyed than the number arriving at the plant.

MLC director general Colin Maclean sought to reassure the public that the discrepancies did not mean that suspect cattle had escaped incineration and might be in the food chain.

Mr Maclean said, "The allegation is that there have been paperwork discrepancies. This is something I will not tolerate and is the reason I suspended four people immediately this matter came to my attention. These relate to internal MLC documents. The protection of public safety depends on the official control system, not the internal MLC documents. The total number of carcasses recorded in the official papers controlling the incinerator are accurate and reflect the true numbers incinerated."

According to Channel 4 News, the discrepancies left 1,600 cattle unaccounted for, of which 400 were infected with BSE. Malcolm King, leader of Wrexham County Council, said his authority's investigations suggested that Cluttons had claimed to have received for destruction more cattle than had, in fact, been incinerated. "What we found in seizing those records from the Meat and Livestock Commission was that ... there are significantly more claims than there are records for cows being incinerated. We can speculate upon where those cows have disappeared to, my bet is that a large number have been incinerated, as they are claiming."

However, he warned that if that was the case then the incinerators were operating at above capacity, which represented a pollution hazard. Mr. Maclean said he was taking the matter "very, very seriously."

But he was satisfied that all the carcasses which went into the plant had been destroyed. The formal documentation system controlling the destruction process was "absolutely foolproof," he insisted. "Those papers show that all the animals, all the carcasses going into Cluttons plants have actually been properly incinerated and disposed of. That system is impossible or extremely difficult to by-pass without immense collusion. I can assure you there's nothing here that causes any risk whatsoever to the general public."

Shoot the messenger: Lacey fired from post?

BBC Radio 22 Apr 98
The establishment/MAFF has gotten revenge on Dr. Richard Lacey, he has apparently been fired from his tenured professorship (or some bureaucratic equivalent) and is now unemployed. They should have given him a knighthood.

"What has actually happened is that recently (about 2 weeks ago) Lacey finished his contract with the Health Authority in the UK. He knew it was going to happen about 3 years ago and has planned well. I must admit that I think that his work on BSE, listeria, salmonella in eggs and microwave ovens might have something to do with it as the University of Leeds was fed up and may have had pressure from above. The best thing to do is to ask him really."-- Steve Dealler

Death on the Menu: CJD Victims Diagnosis and Care.

by Harash Narang.
Published by HH Publishers, 40 Brentwood Ave, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK  fax: 281 0611). This can be obtained directly from the publishers at 25 pounds. ISBN 0-9780953764-1-3. 

Steve Dealler writes, "It is the best book so far in which the individual patient's clinical, psychological and personal conditions are layed out in a way that has been permitted by their relatives. It is difficult to put this sort of thing in the way of a non-medical text book but this has done its best. It should be noted that a number of the CJD patients involved were not those that had been stated to be nvCJD by the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh. Narang claims that they probably missed these cases and puts the story over well."

Comment: Narang has an erratic scientific record but has been important in galvanizing public concern early on. Whether all bovine CJD cases have been identified is a valid issue given the level of rumors. -- webmaster.

Hoarding of Immune Globulin Suspected

 AP Online Fri, Apr 24, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The six companies that make immune globulin are under scrutiny from scientists and lawmakers to account for shortages of the medicine, vital to thousands of Americans, many of them children, with deficient immune systems.

"I think there is in fact on the international market hoarding and speculation that does adversely affect the availability of this vital product," Dr. Arthur Caplan, chairman of the government's top advisory committee on blood policy, said Thursday.

On Monday, that committee will order immune globulin manufacturers to explain the shortages. Officials say companies have some stockpiles and sell about 20 percent of immune globulin supplies overseas. The industry insists the shortage is not intentional.

"To my knowledge, that's not true," said Jason Blaback of the International Plasma Producers Industry Association, who said companies merely set aside small inventories especially for emergencies.

The Associated Press in December first reported a severe shortage of immune globulin, which is made from donated plasma. At the time, the Food and Drug Administration cited several reasons:

--Doctors prescribe it too often. Immune globulin is a proven treatment for pediatric AIDS, bone marrow transplants and primary immune deficiency, but doctors are experimenting with it against chronic fatigue syndrome and other diseases.

--The FDA temporarily halted production by one large company last year because of serious manufacturing deficiencies.

--And several batches are quarantined as a precaution against a theoretical threat, brain-destroying Creutzfeld-Jakob disease. Some plasma donors later have been discovered to be at risk for CJD, although it has never been found to spread through blood.

[Opinion on listserve: "There will not be an end to "limited supplies" of Gamma Globulin in the US anytime soon. Not with all the recalls for CJD, and now, there is absolutely no hope of producing enough gamma since the UK is massively importing all their blood products from the US after their unprecidented ban of their own blood products and vaccines made with UK albumin on 2/27/98."]

In January, Caplan's Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability recommended that doctors use quarantined immune globulin during the shortage, but warned that it would demand an accounting from industry.

"It's been made known to us that there are supplies of material in the companies' inventories," FDA Acting Commissioner Michael Friedman said Thursday. "We are calling the companies to reinforce the position that there are serious needs and we want them to do everything they can to release the product."

More immune globulin has been sold recently, but the FDA has no authority to compel companies to sell any stockpiles or to limit exports. Congress has scheduled hearings on the shortage next month. Caplan suggested considering legislation exports until U.S. supplies are adequate, similar to laws that restrict how many donated organs U.S. hospitals can transplant into non-citizens.

Meanwhile, doctors have toll-free numbers that allow them to access manufacturers' emergency supplies, said Dr. George Nemo of the National Institutes of Health. "It's a difficult situation now, but I believe it's being managed."

U.S. study raises new worries on mad cow disease

Reuters North America Wed, Apr 22, 1998 By Patricia Reaney
LONDON, April 22 (Reuters) - Mad cow disease may be even more infectious and persistent than experts had thought, U.S. scientists said on Wednesday. They found that prions -- the tiny mutated brain proteins that cause the brain-wasting disease -- can exist undetected for long periods in animals that were thought to be resistant to the disorder. The research raises the possibility that infected animals other than cattle could be linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease.

"We report results that raise concern over the possible long-term persistence of infectivity in such clinically resistant species which may have implications for the control of BSE," Richard Race and Bruce Chesebro, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Hamilton, Montana, said in a letter in the science journal Nature.

So far there is no evidence that BSE can be transmitted from resistant animals, such as chickens or hamsters, to more susceptible species, but Race and Chesebro said more research is needed. Mice, goats, mink, pigs and some members of the cat family can all get BSE. Hamsters suffer from their own prion disease, called scrapie, to which m

ice are completely immune. Race and Chesebro injected the infectious agent for hamster scrapie into the brains of mice. Although the mice did not develop signs of the disease, the scientists found that a year after the mice were infected, their contaminated brain and spleen tissue could cause the disease when it was re-injected into hamsters.

"Although we have not tested whether similar results would be obtained after oral ingestion, this unexpected and prolonged survival of a foreign scrapie agent raises the possibility that BSE infectivity might persist in various 'resistant' species exposed to BSE-contaminated feeds," they added. The scientists voiced particular concern about poultry raised for human consumption, and said feed containing animal carcasses should not be fed to any animals.

"Additional experiments should be carried out to detect possible BSE infectivity in clinically normal BSE-exposed animal species," they added. Scientists believe the BSE epidemic that broke out in British herds in 1986 was caused by cattle feed containing carcasses of sheep that died of scrapie, a prion brain disease similar to BSE. Britain banned such feed for cattle in 1988, but it was still fed to pigs and chickens until it was outlawed for all animals in 1995. [This is still allowed in the US -- webmaster]

The European Union slapped an export ban on British beef in March 1996 after London admitted a possible link between BSE and a new strain of CJD. Britain also slaughtered millions of cattle to eliminate the epidemic and reduce the risk of any possible transmission to humans. So far 24 people have died from a new strain of CJD which scientists believe is caused by eating contaminated beef. Unlike the previous strain of CJD, a one in a million disease of mainly elderly people, the new variant hits people under 40.

"What comes out from this (research) is that we don't know where humans got new variant CJD from, and it's very difficult to do studies to find it out," Dr Steve Dealler, a British microbiologist who has studied prion diseases, said in a telephone interview. "It shows that the exposure that the human population, particularly in the UK, would have had to BSE is not just from cows but from all sorts of directions we haven't thought of."

Dealler said that pigs and chickens, and not just infected cattle, might have caused the disease in humans.

A spokesman for Britain's agriculture ministry said it will examine the U.S. study and is always open to new research from the scientific community. Last month it said that new data suggested the BSE epidemic would fall to an insignificant level by 2001.

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