More Brits could still die from human form of mad cow disease

More Brits could be affected by mad cow disease as experts warn many could be infected without knowing. A second wave of deaths related to eating beef contaminated with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) – or mad cow disease – could sweep the UK.

In 1993 Britain’s worst food scandal saw 4.4 million cows culled and claiming the lives of 177 people who had developed the human form of it, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). Since then, strict controls have been in place to prevent BSE contaminating food products and the use of meat and bone mix is illegal. But humans could be affected for up to 50 years, warn experts. Neurology professor, Richard Knight, of Edinburgh’s CJD Surveillance Unit, told a BBC investigation – airing July 11 – that it is still unclear how many could be affected. He said: ‘There is still so much uncertainty about this disease.

‘And one of the things that is uncertain is how many people in the UK are silently infected. ‘At the moment I have to say we are simply not sure, but every prediction suggests there are going to be further cases.’ vCJD is caused by prions, which are infectious agents made up mainly of proteins. A study of a similar disease in 2009, caused by prions, showed the disease may incubate undetected for much longer. All affected had carried the same MM genetic makeup, but in 2009 victim Grant Goodwin, 30, became the first person to die of vCJD, despite carrying the different gene type of MV. In 2014, a British man, 36, became the second MV carrier to die from the disease.