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Fears Raised Over New vCJD Wave in UK

Doctors fear a new wave of the human form of "mad cow disease" is about to hit Britain, BBC Newsnight has learned.

In the UK, 164 people have died of variant CJD, which originally came from cows infected with BSE, and all cases shared a version of a certain gene.

But Newsnight has been told of a new case in a separate genetic group.

The government's chief adviser on vCJD, Professor Chris Higgins, said estimates were that up to 350 people could become affected by this new type.

He told Newsnight the new case had been diagnosed on a clinical basis as vCJD.

Such cases can be officially confirmed only if further, more invasive, tests go ahead, such as a brain biopsy.

What is of concern to doctors in the new case is that the individual concerned has a particular genetic make-up and it is the first case to appear of that type.

There is a key gene linked to vCJD and 42% of the population have a version of that gene, known as MM.

The number of human victims peaked in the year 2000 and there are now only a handful of cases a year.

It looked like the disease had almost gone away, but this new case is from a group with a version of the gene called MV.

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