According to a new study reported in News Max Health and other news sources, approximately one person in 2,000 in Britain carries the protein linked to the human version of mad cow disease, a figure higher than previous estimates, a new study reported yesterday, according to the October 16, 2013 news article, "30,000 in UK May Carry Human Form of Mad Cow." It's still unknown whether any of these people or even how many might develop mad cow disease. Think mad cow disease only happens in Europe? Check out the ABC News video -, "Mad Cow Disease Found in California." USDA confirms new case in the United States.
The latest UK study, however states that the researcher's estimate is that perhaps 30,000 people in the UK carry the biomarker for mad cow. Two ways the disease is transmitted from one person to the next other than eating infected meat is through blood transfusions when the infected blood is missed and not weeded out and surgical instruments not properly sterilized, according to the October 16, 2013 Medical News Today article, "1 in 2,000 British people may carry 'mad cow' disease." What the latest study did reveal was the presence of abnormal prions in the UK population. Check out the video, "30K in U.K. Could Carry Human Form of Mad Cow Disease."
You can check out the study, published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), is the most exhaustive attempt yet to quantify the risk to Britons from variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease, or vCJD. The disease destroys the brain. Back in the 1980s, mad cow disease erupted in Britain and then spread to other nations via exports of cattle.
The official name of the disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). The only problem is that scientists still are not able to calculate the risk for those exposed to the prion protein called abnormal PrP, during the years that the prion was spread through the population because researchers don't know how long the prion, vCJD has to incubate before it causes the disease. On the other hand, not everyone who carries the prion may develop the disease. Also see the October 15, 2013 Yahoo News. article, "Mad cow disease: One in 2,000 in UK carry protein."
The lead researcher in the new study is Sebastian Brandner. He's a professor of neuropathology at the University College, London. In the study scientists examined 32,441 appendixes from patients who had their appendix removed at hospitals in the UK. The appendixes were tested for PrP. Sixteen samples were positive. What the scientists did then was to extrapolate how many of those would represent the UK.
Travelers to the UK from the USA may also want to know what to do in case they need a blood transfusion or what to eat. Some people worry about blood from the cut finger of a food worker going into the food. See, "Mad Cow Disease-Overview - WebMD" and "Disease precautions for hunters." What happens when a hunter cuts an animal infected with such a prion and then cuts himself so the blood gets into his wound? See, "Mad Deer Disease: Can Venison Kill You? | Outdoor Life." Can squirrel-eating hunters and survivalist catch prion diseases from eating squirrels, deers, or other animals they hunt? See, "Squirrels' Brains - Official Mad Cow Disease." Animals other than cows could have the prion, regardless of what country is involved.
When extrapolated, the population equates to one person out of 2,000 in the UK. Before that study, a previous sample study came up with the figure of an average of one person out of 4,000 people in the UK carrying the prion. But statistics are tricky because the two tallies overlap in their upper and bottom range of estimates. So scientists can't say that one study shows twice as many people exposed to the prion. All the study can say is that the examination detected the presence of abnormal prions in the population. On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there have been only three cases of vCJD reported in the US between 1996 and March 2011. But what about figures in the UK?
Scientists still can't predict who will develop the disease. In the UK, only 177 cases of vCJD have been reported compared to the entire population that may have been exposed to the prion since the 1980s. Scientits look for exposure to an abnormal PrP. Since the samples were looked at anonymously, people aren't being contacted and told they carry the abnormal prion.
Since so many people in the UK carry the prion, scientists also look at genetic predispositions to develop or not develop the disease
What the scientists do have are the genetic profiles of the appendixes. For example, four of the "positives" came back from people with a so-called VV variation on part of the gene that encodes for prion proteins. But only 15 percent of the British population have this. So can researchers predict who will get the disease? No, because all of the known cases of vCJD have involved people with the so-called MM variation of the gene, which accounts for 43 percent of the population. Eight of the "positives" were MM. It's like Russian roulette so to speak.
The researchers found other four "positives" were MV, meaning a mixture of the two variants on this part of the gene. People with the MV variant account for nearly 45 percent of the British population. And researchers still don't know why so few people with the "MM" variant of the gene aren't getting sick. Another genetic puzzle to figure out is whether those with the "V" component on their gene may get the disease after decades of incubation or not. Researchers don't know whether they're protected and won't get the disease, according to the study.
So even though risks are low for transmission of vCJD by blood transfusions are low, who would want a blood transfusion from someone with the prion?
There's such a situation as having a sub-clinical disease. For some people, they won't live long enough before the disease incubation time is up. It could take decades before incubation is ready to develop into the diseases, if it even happens. And no one ones if those people will outlive the incubation time or pass away before incubation time is ripe. Life expectancy could play a part in the game of chance.
All scientists can do is keep on studying the situation. What researchers are looking for are abnormal PrP in the blood. Researchers don't know what will happen, if anything. It's one more reason to think about going vegan. But once the prion already is in someone's blood, no one knows whether that person will develop a disease or not. Some people may be immune, and others may be so old that they won't outlive the decades it takes before the disease develops, if it develops at all. Check out, "Mad Cow Disease In Humans."
Also see these other studies or their abstracts if you're interested in nutrition topics, "Managing cows’ milk allergy in children." Another noteworthy study to check out is "Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies."