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From: TSS (
Subject: New test can spot human 'mad cow' available to doctors next year
Date: September 24, 2004 at 7:03 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: New test can spot human 'mad cow' available to doctors next year.
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 09:10:22 -0500
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Friday, 24th September 2004

New test can spot human 'mad cow'

Rebecca Camber

THE world's first test for the human form of mad cow disease has been
perfected in Manchester and is set to be available to doctors next year.

Experts at the Manchester Royal Infirmary have invented a simple,
painless heart test which takes just ten minutes to find out whether
patients have the fatal brain-wasting condition variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, known as vCJD.

After two years of successful human and cattle trials on the heart-rate
monitor, it is now being developed by a firm who say that it could be
put into action as early as next year.

The breakthrough could offer fresh hope to 6,000 people in Britain who
were told earlier this week that they may have contracted the deadly
disease through a blood transfusion or receiving blood plasma products.

In Greater Manchester, more than 700 patients have been contacted about
the risk of getting the disease from blood stocks going back 24 years.

The Department of Health issued the warning after the first possible
case of a person dying of vCJD following a blood transfusion. This led
to a ban on anyone who had received a blood transfusion since January
1980 donating blood.


But even if a patient has been infected through a blood transfusion,
there is still no way to diagnose the disease until it is so advanced
that they are showing symptoms such as major psychological problems and
being unable to walk properly.

Now MRI medic Dr Chris Pomfrett has come up with a heartbeat test which
hospital doctors or GPs can perform to discover if someone has vCJD up
to five years before they experience symptoms.

The wireless belt device is strapped around the chest and works by
measuring the heartbeat 1,000 times a second for ten minutes, which
experts then use to look for the signature pattern of vCJD.

The discovery came about after ten years of working with BSE cattle.

Dr Pomfrett, who works in the anaesthesia department of the hospital,
has spent years tracking changes in the base of the brain, the part
controlling the heart where vCJD strikes.

In December 2002, the Manchester Evening News reported how the technique
was undergoing trials, now the research has been successfully completed
and the discovery is ready to be put into use.

Currently, the only way doctors can diagnose vCJD is to surgically
remove tissue from the tonsils or appendix when a patient is showing
symptoms and all other possibilities have been eliminated.

But doctors can only do this check once, and the advantage of Dr
Pomfrett's monitor is that a GP could keep testing someone at risk every
six to 12 months to see if the disease has appeared.

Recent research has indicated that the disease can lie dormant for up to
40 years before symptoms show.


The research was based on comparing people in Greater Manchester who do
not have vCJD, with four patients who developed vCJD from eating
infected meat. But the Manchester University lecturer has high hopes
that his test, being developed by TSEnse Diagnostics, could also help
those at risk through contaminated blood stocks.

He said: "In each of the vCJD patients it worked 100 per cent as it
picked up the same signature. If the test is as good as I think it is,
then it could pick the disease up in pre-symptomatic patients.

"It would be the first test of its kind in the world and it could offer
people a lot of hope.

"But there is no cure at the moment, so it would be wrong to screen huge
numbers of the population when you can offer them nothing if they test
positive. The test would the most useful for those told they are already
at risk."

The test would not only help to diagnose sufferers of the disease, it
would also rule out many of the 6,000 people told that they may be at
risk and could also be used as a screening tool for anyone wanting to
give blood.

Chairman of the Haemophiliacs Society, Roddy Morrison, who has received
one of the letters from the Department of Health warning him he may have
contracted vCJD from contaminated blood, said: "This test sounds very
exciting and it's great to know progress is being made in this field."

A spokeswoman for the National Blood Service said: "At present, anyone
who has had a blood transfusion since 1980 cannot give blood.

"We welcome any advance towards a test for vCJD, and hope that perhaps
in the future some of these loyal donors will be able to give again."

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