A new study has suggested that previous estimations regarding the scope of the anticipated vCJD epidemic have been exaggerated.


To date, just over 100 UK consumers have died from the brain wasting disease, the human form of BSE, but experts at the Imperial College in London have speculated that up to 10,000 could be affected.


The new research, conducted by a team at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and published in the journal Science, suggests however that the total number of vCJD victims may be less than a few thousand.


Scientists have encountered difficulties when predicting the development of vCJD, because they lack much necessary information about the disease, believed to be caused by eating BSE-infected beef. The latest study relied on a statistical method of back calculation, which involves charting the disease’s development to date as an indication of its future spread.
 
Professor John Collinge, head of the National Prion Clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, has criticised the new study, however, insisting that the long term development of vCJD is likely to see a series of peaks in the number of cases.
 
Collinge argues that some people are genetically susceptible to the disease, and that the incubation period may vary depending on the specific genetic makeup of each person.


The London School of Hygiene group has agreed its predictions are far from certain, and has stressed the need to continue the search for a cure for vCJD.

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