Hopes for mad cow breakthrough

Plans are afoot to develop the world’s first reliable blood test for the human version of mad cow disease, to be published in journal Lancet today.

The Press Association (PA) is reporting that the breakthrough could transform diagnosis and screening of the fatal brain disorder, and identify carriers. It could also help scientists accurately assess, for the first time, how many Britons may be incubating the disease.

The prototype blood test developed by scientists at the Medical Research Council (MRC) is said to be 100,000 times more sensitive than any studied before.

Author Dr Graham Jackson, from the MRC Prion Unit, told PA: “This test comes at the end of many years of meticulous, painstaking research in our Unit and the NHS National Prion Clinic.

“Although further larger studies are needed to confirm its effectiveness, it’s the best hope yet of a successful early diagnostic test for the disease. This test could potentially go on to allow blood services to screen the population for vCJD infection, assess how many people in the UK are silent carriers and prevent onward transmission of the disease.”

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