Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Let's not go there

This British scientist may have developed a test to determine whether you have CJD (Creutzfeld-Jakob disease) long before any symptoms show up.

The problem is, he's not allowed to test anyone.
    But Dr Chris Pomfrett says he is being denied the help he needs to find out if it actually works.

    The Manchester specialist says tests on cows suggest it could be effective. However, he needs humans with the disease to test it properly.

    Dr Pomfrett says specialist centres in London and Edinburgh have failed to refer patients with the disease to him. ...."I have been to Edinburgh and London and given presentations on my work but for some reason we have not had any patients referred to us by these groups," said Dr Pomfrett.

    "When we originally got the money we wanted to look at 20 CJD suspects and since then 35 people have died," he said.

    "It's incredibly frustrating because we have the equipment," he said.

    "This potentially could detect up to five years in humans before symptoms show, but that's still just speculation. I can't validate this until I reach the threshold of 20 cases."

    Mr Simms urged the two specialist centres to help Dr Pomfrett to carry out his tests.

    "This is the best we have got at the minute," he said. "It could stop the loss of blood donors and also show up those who have developed vCJD sooner so they can take immediate action of seeking experimental treatment."
It's so hard to tell what's really going on from just this brief article. I doubt it's because Dr. Pomfrett has cooties. Seriously, I wonder if it's too loaded to find out. The bioethics involved sound treacherous: if you knew you had CJD before you had any symptoms, what would you do? We also don't know how infectious this is. On top of that, if there are false-positive problems with the test, that would be horrendous. The bigger problem is, if this was a good test for CJD, we may find out how widespread this disease is in the population. I'm not advocating sticking our collective heads in the sand about this. It just seems the implications of this human test would be enormous and may be more than what the government may want to deal with at the moment. Not good. Just speculating here.