Mad cow disease: Blood test for vCJD clears hurdle

A blood test to detect rogue prion proteins that cause the human form of mad-cow disease has performed well in an early experiment, British doctors reported in The Lancet on Thursday.

The test spotted nearly three out of every four cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in a small-scale assessment, a performance that could be fine-tuned to develop a screening tool for blood donations, they said.

The fatal neurodegenerative disease was first identified in 1996 in Britain, where many were exposed to beef infected with the prion that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), as mad-cow disease is formally known.

The toll from vCJD is unclear because of unknowns about the prion's incubation period. As a result, health watchdogs - especially in Britain, the epicentre of the scare - are having to wrestle with many uncertainties, including the safety of blood donations.

Lacking a test for vCJD prions, they have had to resort to expensive methods such as filtering blood or importing plasma from countries such as the United States, where the BSE problem was minimal.

In the experiment, researchers led by Professor John Collinge of University College London tested 190 blood samples, taken from 21 patients with vCJD, 27 with classic CJD, 42 with other neurological diseases and 100 people who were otherwise healthy.

The prion test spotted 15 out of the 21 samples with vCJD, giving a sensitivity of 71.4 percent. There were no "false positives," a term that means the test did not wrongly say a non-vCJD sample had the prion.

The findings prove that a test for the vCJD agent is feasible, but further work is needed to improve it, says the paper.

BSE and vCJD wreak massive damage to the brain, causing sponge-like holes in tissue.

Britain's official death toll from vCJD is 170 cases that are either confirmed or probable. Four people who are still alive also probably have been afflicted by the disease.

ri/mh/co

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Recruitment Genius: Fundraising Manager / Income Generation Coach

    £21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Account Manager

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy, friendly and creative marketing ag...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - London - £45,000

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Wes...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project