Mothers could pass on CJD

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The Independent Online
Young women with the new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) which sparked the beef scare might pass the condition onto their children without knowing they have the disease, a senior medical researcher has warned.

Dr Sheila Gore is calling for a seven-year study into the possible transmission of the cattle disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) from cows to calves to be cut short so the results can be used to shed light on what might happen to humans.

Dr Gore, of the Medical Research Council's biostatistics unit in Cambridge, told New Scientist magazine: "We are seeing cases of CJD among women still in their child bearing years. Because this has never happened before we have no idea of the risk of maternal infection."

Dr Gore believes evidence of the risk of maternal transmission of CJD might come from a cattle experiment started seven years ago by John Wilesmith of the Government's Central Veterinary Laboratory. in Weybridge, Surrey.

The study is following the fate of 300 calves born in 1988 and 1989 to cows with signs of BSE.

At least 45 animals in the experiment have already died from BSE, according to the New Scientist report.

As the study is being carried out blind, researchers do not yet know which animals came from infected cows. When the research is "unblinded" it will become clear whether a larger number of animals killed by BSE were born to infected cows. Dr Gore believes the growing concerns about human safety mean results are needed quickly.