News FocusEpidemiology

Tracking the Human Fallout From 'Mad Cow Disease'

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Science  01 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5484, pp. 1452-1454
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5484.1452

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND-- A task force here has been studying cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), an incurable malady of the brain and nervous system that has been linked to eating beef or other products from cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy or "mad cow disease." The team's goal is to find out just how the patients got infected and how many of them there may ultimately be. The number of confirmed or probable vCJD cases in the United Kingdom is still relatively small--a total of 80 as Science went to press--and recent estimates of the number of potential cases are lower than was once feared. Yet the task force's own recent results show that the incidence of vCJD is rising, and researchers remain determined to try to solve the riddles posed by vCJD.