BSE may be responsible for two types of the fatal brain disease CJD, rather than one as was previously thought.

This was the conclusion of researchers at University College London who carried out experiments on mice to investigate links between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Previously, eating BSE-infected beef was thought to cause variant CJD, now also known as human BSE. It is now thought, however, that BSE may also be responsible for sporadic CJD, a different strain of the incurable disease.

In Britain so far, 117 people are known to have died from variant CJD. Deaths caused by sporadic CJD that were reported in Britain in the 1990s peaked at around 60 per year between 1997 and 1999, far more than the 28 cases of variant CJD in 2000, its peak year so far, reported the Guardian.

There have been calls for urgent reviews to determine the true scale of BSE-related CJD. The UK government is to examine the new findings, while the Department of Health may have to increase its compensation scheme for the families of those affected by the human form of BSE.