Scientists discover new human link with BSE

British scientists today publish the strongest evidence so far that "mad cow" disease has been transmitted to humans through infected beef.

EU officials last night warned that the new findings ruled out even a partial lifting of the beef export ban in the foreseeable future and said that Britain must honour its obligation to slaughter all high-risk cattle.

Scientists from the Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's Hospital, London, have shown that a protein associated with the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) identified in humans earlier this year and tentatively linked with eating infected beef, closely resembles that seen in cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), and in other animals infected with BSE. The protein, known as a prion, is quite distinct from that found in other forms of CJD. The research could lead to a new test to confirm the new variant of CJD.

These new findings are the first experimental evidence that the appearance of this fatal brain disease in humans is linked with the BSE epidemic in cattle. Twelve cases of the new CJD have been confirmed so far since March with two more suspected cases under investigation.

Professor John Collinge, a consultant neurologist who led the research, said yesterday: "The Government has been working on the assumption that BSE is a human pathogen [infectious agent] and this work strengthens that hypothesis."

A Department of Health spokeswoman called the findings "persuasive" but not conclusive.

Professor Collinge and his team analysed the biochemical properties of prion proteins associated with sporadic and acquired forms of CJD, new variant CJD, and BSE transmitted to mice, cats, and macaque monkeys.

According to their report in today's issue of Nature, they discovered a characteristic molecular signature in new variant CJD which was also present in BSE in cattle and other animals, but absent in other forms of CJD. Professor Collinge, a member of the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, said identification of the marker would lead to a diagnostic test for new variant CJD using human lymph or tonsil tissue within six months, and a blood test within a year. Currently new variant CJD can only be confirmed at autopsy.

The Meat and Livestock Commission said the research had no implications for the safety of beef because safeguards were designed to protect public health from the "worst possible case scenario".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £30,000+

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for individual...

Recruitment Genius: IT Project Coordinator / Manager

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy