Victims of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease, may show symptoms that could aid earlier diagnosis.

Richard Knight, a member of the CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, Scotland, is quoted as reporting in the British Medical Journal that people suffering from vCJD may demonstrate early symptoms of the disease that could help medical professionals detect the condition earlier.

Knight is reported as saying that: "A high proportion of patients have a combination of psychiatric and neurological features within four months of clinical onset that suggest the diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease."

Many of the symptoms that occur in the early stages of the disease are also common in patients suffering less serious illnesses, but awareness of them may nevertheless aid early diagnosis. They include withdrawal, anxiety, irritability, insomnia and a loss of interest. Instability and slurring of speech occur later on as the illness progresses.