Up to 300 French vCJD Cases in Next 60 Years

Up to 300 French vCJD Cases in Next 60 Years scale of slaughter

May 17, 2001 Reuters
PARIS (Reuters) - France can expect up to 300 cases of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of mad cow disease, in the next 60 years, a report published by the French Senate said on Thursday.

Three people are thought to have died already from the fatal brain-wasting disease in France, although the exact cause of death of the latest victim last month has not been confirmed.

The forecast from the French upper house is sharply lower than that offered by scientists for Britain, where more than 80 people have already died of the illness.

Epidemiological projections have put the maximum number of cases in Britain at up to 130,000.

But recent research by scientist John Collinge at the British Medical Research Council's Prion Research Unit has suggested there could be an epidemic evolving in waves over decades, Collinge said this week.

The French senators wrote in a report after an inquiry that scope for spread of the disease in France was limited.

``The most pessimistic theoretical forecast on contamination risks in France... shows the worst could be a risk of 300 cases (of vCJD) in the next 60 years, taking account of the incubation period,'' they wrote.

``This would mean the annual number of cases would be five, which shows the very limited development of the new variant,'' they added.

While the Senate report may offer comfort to a population worried about the impact of mad cow disease -- formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- it has already been challenged.

Annick Alperovitch, a researcher at the National Health and Medical Research Institute (INSERM) who testified at the Senate's inquiry, called its approach ``simplistic.''

She said it was based on the assumption of an average incubation period not exceeding 60 years and said it was possible some older people, believed to have succumbed to other illnesses, had actually been suffering from undetected vCJD.

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