'No evidence' baby got CJD in womb caught womb

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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.

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.

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.

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