Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: a summary of current scientific knowledge in relation to public health

Coulthart, Michael B.; Cashman, Neil R.
July 2001
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;7/10/2001, Vol. 165 Issue 1, p51
Academic Journal
The prion diseases pose unique scientific, medical, veterinary and regulatory challenges. Here, we summarize current information bearing on the natural history, pathobiology and epidemiology of these disorders and public policy responses to the potential threats to public health posed, particularly, by bovine spongiform encephalopathy and variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD). Six years after the first case reports of vCJD, there is still no clear indication of the magnitude of the primary epidemic, or of the likelihood of lateral transmission of this untreatable disease by iatrogenic means, particularly by blood and blood products. However, the unsettling nature of the available evidence warrants prudence regarding public health policy and regulation, as well as a forward-looking approach to research.


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