Girl, 15, could be youngest victim of CJD

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The Independent Online
A 15-year-old girl undergoing treatment in a Glasgow hospital last night is believed to be the latest and youngest known case of Creutzfeldt Jacob disease.

Professor Peter Behan of Glasgow's Southern General Hospital, where she is being treated, said last night: "This girl has a few months to live in my opinion. She has BSE pattern CJD and picked it up through hamburgers. Her parents tell me she had a predilection for hamburgers."

Although the only certain way to establish whether the girl has the disease is to carry out a biopsy on her brain, the doctors at the hospital have decided not to do this as they do not think it will serve any purpose.

The true nature of the girl's illness will remain unconfirmed until a post-mortem examination is carried out. She is not being identified at the request of her parents.

Although Mr Behan is certain the teenager suffers from CJD, Rab Hide, the clinical director of the institute has let it be known that he is not entirely convinced.

The girl's condition is said to have been detected by a new test, developed by Dr Michael Harrington, at Cal Tech in the US. Dr Harrington declined to discuss the case yesterday as he is hoping to have the results of his work published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The age of the girl, at 15, makes her the youngest victim of CJD, almost certainly in the world. The disease is thought to have an incubation period of at least 10 to 15 years. In the records of the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, only one case has been recorded in a person aged under 20, that of a man in 1970.

Another worrying factor is the growth in the number of cases. It took two years for the 10 cases of the "new strain" of CJD, tentatively linked to exposure to BSE, or mad cow disease, to be recorded. They were all unusual in that they appeared in people aged under 42. So far this year, there are four suspected cases of the new strain, including this one.