Friday, January 16, 2004

CJD Morsel of the Day

I think this is one of the better articles on BSE I've come across.
    Although the fact that Mad Cow disease causes variant CJD had already been strongly established, researchers at the University College of London nevertheless created transgenic mice complete with "humanized" brains genetically engineered with human genes to try to prove the link once and for all. When the researchers injected one strain of the "humanized" mice with infected cow brains, they came down with the same brain damage seen in human variant CJD, as expected. But when they tried this in a different strain of transgenic "humanized" mice, those mice got sick too, but most got sick from what looked exactly like sporadic CJD! The Mad Cow prions caused a disease that had a molecular signature indistinguishable from sporadic CJD. To the extent that animal experiments can simulate human results, their shocking conclusion was that eating infected meat might be responsible for some cases of sporadic CJD in addition to the expected variant CJD. The researchers concluded that "it is therefore possible that some patients with [what looks like]... sporadic CJD may have a disease arising from BSE exposure."[17] Laura Manuelidis, section chief of surgery in the neuropathology department at Yale University comments, "Now people are beginning to realize that because something looks like sporadic CJD they can't necessarily conclude that it's not linked to [Mad Cow disease]..."[18]
Contrast this with this piece in CBS News about CJD and the racetrack connection.
    Doctors were certain her disease did not come from beef, but occurred randomly, so-called sporadic CJD. But, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, Carrie Mahan's good friend Janet Skarbek read about another local woman, Carol Olive, who was also diagnosed with CJD.

    "And then it says Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease," says Skarbek. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to read farther,' and then it says she worked at the Garden State Racetrack."

    And that's when the light bulb went on.

    Both Olive and Carrie Mahan worked at the now closed racetrack and ate lunch there every day. When Skarbek found a third CJD victim, broadcaster John Weber, who had a season pass to the track, she dug more and eventually found seven CJD victims in the area. All had some connection to the track. That, she thought, can't be random, so she asked the Centers for Disease Control to investigate.

    But, Skarbek says, they weren't interested in it because it was only sporadic CJD.
So, if you put these two pieces together, what might you conclude?