From: TSS ()
Subject: U.S. man to be retested for human mad cow
Date: May 13, 2005 at 1:24 pm PST
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: U.S. man to be retested for human mad cow
Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 15:25:52 -0500
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################
U.S. man to be retested for human mad cow
By Steve Mitchell
UPI Medical Correspondent
Published May 13, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Brain samples from a California man whose neurologist
suspected may have been the first person to acquire human mad cow
disease in the United States have been sent to France to be re-analyzed,
United Press International has learned.
Patrick Hicks, 49, of Riverside, Calif., died late last year. U.S.
authorities in January ruled out variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, or
vCJD, which humans can contract from eating beef products contaminated
with the mad cow pathogen.
Both Hicks' family and his neurologist, Dr. Ron Bailey of Riverside
Medical Center in Riverside, Calif., thought there still were unanswered
questions about the final diagnosis and recently arranged for brain
samples to be sent to experts in France.
Bailey said Hicks had symptoms consistent with vCJD, and his
relatively young age also made him a possible candidate for the disease,
which typically affects those under the age of 55.
If Hicks did in fact suffer from vCJD, he could be the first case of
the disease due to consumption of domestic beef since his family said he
was a heavy eater of beef, never traveled outside of the country and had
not undergone any medical procedures that would put him at risk of
contracting the disease.
Only one confirmed case of mad cow has been detected among U.S.
herds and the only U.S. citizen to contract vCJD is thought to have
gotten it in the United Kingdom, where she grew up. More than 150 people
around the world have contracted vCJD.
The tissue will be examined by Dr. Jean Jacques Hauw at the
Laboratoire De Neuropathologie at the Groupe Hospitalier
Pitie-Salpetriere in Paris, Debbi Hicks, Patrick's sister, told UPI.
Debbi Hicks lives in France and helped arrange for the samples to be
transferred to Hauw, who plans to inject Patrick's brain tissue into
experimental animals. Scientists say this is a definitive way to
determine whether Hicks suffered from vCJD or a similar condition called
sporadic CJD that has no known cause.
"It'd be nice to see if there's anything better we can find out
about Pat and if it could help other people who are in the same
situation," Debbi Hicks said.
Bailey said he thought the National Prion Disease Pathology
Surveillance Center in Cleveland, which conducted the initial
examination of Hicks' brain, ruled it sporadic CJD without conclusive
"The question is does he have variant or does he have sporadic?"
Bailey told UPI. "We haven't successfully answered that question."
He added that even if Hicks had the sporadic form of CJD, it doesn't
necessarily mean he didn't get it from eating contaminated beef. Some
studies have suggested sporadic CJD could be caused by mad cow disease.
Laura Manuelidis, a CJD expert and section chief of surgery in the
neuropathology department at Yale University, agreed the NPDPSC
diagnosis was not conclusive.
"They'll never know unless they inject it into animals," Manuelidis
Tests done by the NPDPSC are interesting and suggestive, Manuelidis
said, "but without looking at how it behaves in an animal, they don't
Carrie Harris of the NPDPSC declined to comment on the case due to
patient confidentiality restrictions. "I'm afraid I'm not able to
comment on any cases in particular," Harris told UPI.
Pierluigi Gambetti, director of NPDPSC, did not return a phone call
Bailey said the decision to re-examine Patrick's brain tissue was
spurred by problems with the initial autopsy and questions about the
final diagnosis from NPDPSC.
"We had a family discussion about the issues and what caused this
development was the debacle of the autopsy in this patient," Bailey said.
The NPDPSC arranged for a company called 1-800-AUTOPSY to collect
Patrick's brain upon his death. However, the company failed to follow
the proper protocol required by NPDPSC and did not freeze any samples
from the brain. Instead, the autopsy company fixed the entire organ in
formalin, making it difficult to conduct definitive tests that would
help distinguish whether Hicks had vCJD or sporadic CJD.
The company previously told UPI they did not have the equipment
necessary to freeze the tissue and would have made NPDPSC aware of this
when they were first contacted.
Bailey also said he was uncomfortable with what he termed
"inconsistencies" in the final lab report from NPDPSC.
"I think there was enough ambiguity there that I certainly didn't
mind a second opinion," he said.
The pathology report from the NPDPSC, obtained by UPI, stated the
brain tissue showed evidence consistent with sporadic CJD and that vCJD
The report, which is signed by Gambetti, noted, "Unfortunately, due
to the lack of frozen tissue, the prion protein gene and protein
analyses could not be carried out. These analyses would have been useful
to support the present diagnosis."
Hicks' family also was troubled by the failure to collect frozen
"Why would they put it in formalin when it's known you shouldn't do
that?" Debbi Hicks said. "There's no reason that should've been done ...
because that makes it look like a cover-up."
Markus Moser, a molecular biologist and chief executive officer of
Prionics, a Switzerland firm that manufactures test kits for detecting
mad cow disease, told UPI it still would be possible to carry out animal
injection studies and other tests without frozen tissue, but he found it
strange frozen tissue was not collected.
"It is particularly odd that no frozen tissue was stored and the
explanation of missing freezing equipment is unsatisfactory at best,"
He noted freezing would not even have been necessary for a type of
test called Western blot. The tissue still would have been suitable for
conducting that test even if it had been stored for days at room
He also said animal injection studies still could be undertaken,
even with the formalin-fixed tissue because that process does not
destroy the infectivity of the pathogen.
"The case could actually be further investigated, if there is a
willingness to do so," he said.
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THEY SHOULD RETEST THOSE MAD COWS TOO, well, the stumbling and staggering
one they rendered to hide all evidence would be difficult, BUT, all those
positive, positive, inconclusives they deemed negative, WITHOUT WESTERN
BLOT, should be retested, especially that Nov. 04 cow from Texas...
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