Britain Hunts Down CJD Epidemic in Removed Appendixes

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Science  04 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5382, pp. 1422-1423
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5382.1422

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LONDON-- Ever since the first deaths in 1995 from a new form of brain disorder thought to result from eating the meat of cattle infected with mad cow disease, one critical question has remained unanswered: Given the long latency period for the disease, how many cases are likely to show up beyond the 27 diagnosed so far? Last week, the British government announced that it is about to launch a novel study of hundreds of stored tonsils and appendixes, removed during surgery in the past several years, for signs of the rogue prion proteins that have been linked to the brain disorder, known as new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). But the study, which is still at the planning stage, will confront an ethical minefield over such questions as whether to tell healthy patients whose organs test positive.