Letter: Risks of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

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The Independent Online
Sir: Not only did the Government fail to inform the families whose children received the human growth hormone (HGH) that was contaminated with the organism of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Dementia (report, 16 August) for seven years (during which time several of the recipients acted as blood donors and several tragically died of CJD), but they still fail to take a simple step which would reassure the majority of the distressed families.

There is a genetic susceptibility to CJD; that is one reason it is so rare. The Government is spending millions of pounds running a CJD surveillance unit in Edinburgh (due to the anxiety about the effect of 'mad cow disease' - infected cattle brains in our food chain - on the numbers of CJD sufferers in the UK). It would be a simple matter to ascertain the genotype they all share.

With this knowledge, the genotypes of the involved families could be established and the vast majority of them thus reassured. Even those few whose genotype is unfavourable should be told that they are unlikely to develop the disease since it is also dose-dependent.

Why does the Government not take this simple humanitarian step?

Yours faithfully,

H. C. GRANT

(retired neuropathologist)

Dornoch, Highland

17 August

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