Health: Sacked CJD scientist sues laboratory service

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Dr Harash Narang, a research scientist who claims to have tests for "mad cow disease" (BSE) in humans and to have diagnosed BSE in chickens, went to the High Court in London yesterday to issue a writ against his former employer, the Public Health Laboratory Service.

Supported by relatives of victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), Dr Narang, 54, moved a writ alleging "malicious falsehood" against the PHLS and two other defendants. He believes he was sacked from his pounds 40,000- a-year post as a microbiologist with the PHLS laboratory in Newcastle upon Tyne because of his belief in a link between BSE and CJD. He lost his claim for unfair dismissal when a tribunal ruled his post had become redundant because of a 2 per cent cut in Department of Health funding.

He had worked for the PHLS, a government body, from 1977 to 1994. Yesterday he said he wished to clear his name and prove that he has never breached patient confidentiality in his research work. "I want to clear the mud," he commented, adding that the PHLS had failed to investigate CJD.

Dr Narang is now working with private funding from a commercial company. The PHLS declined to comment.

1 Scientists at the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh have determined that "new variant" CJD, which has so far killed 20 young Britons, is caused by a "single strain of infectious agent".

The finding, published in tomorrow's Lancet, is another scientific step towards the expected confirmation that nv-CJD is caused by the infectious agent for BSE, which also only consists of a single strain of infectious agent.