Test could help diagnose mad cow disease

Jan. 14, 2012 at 2:04 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- British scientists are developing a test that will identify the human form of mad cow disease.

Until now, the only way to confirm a diagnosis of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a human variation of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was through tonsil biopsies or taking brain samples after the patient has died, The Daily Telegraph reported.

"In principle, [the new blood test] may allow us to find how many people in the population are infected so we can target risk management strategies and ensure the safety of our blood supply," said Professor John Collinge, who is leading the Medical Research Council team developing the blood test.

"It could also enable us to make an earlier diagnosis and as treatments become available it is going to be desperately important to get to patients early before there is extensive damage to the brain."

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was first detected in 1995. The illness was traced to the consumption of beef products containing contaminated meat, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The disease causes the brain to become riddled with holes, leading to mental problems, loss of body function, and eventual death. There is no cure.

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