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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
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The Scare Spreads

A NIMHANS study reveals the presence of CJD in India

The Scare Spreads
The Scare Spreads
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

ON the heels of the panic in Europe following the discovery of 10 cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the human equivalent of 'Mad Cow disease', has come the revelation that 30 cases of CJD have been recorded in India between 1971-1990. A pilot study at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-sciences (NIMHANS) found 20 'definite' and 10 'probable' cases of CJD, mostly from Bombay and Bangalore, cities which have a concentration of neurological diagnostic facilities. And as awareness grows, the number of reported cases is expected to increase. However, NIMHANS neurologists and Health Ministry experts assert that there is "no cause for alarm" as the risk of contracting CJD is one in a million.

While there is no epidemiological evidence to show how the disease spread from animals to humans in India, Himalayan sheep are the prime suspects as Scrapie—the Mad Cow strain among sheep—has long been prevalent among them. Scrapie is also said to be found in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, where the Government-run Central Research Institute produces the commonly available rabies vaccine from the brains of live sheep. A full 14-injection course of this vaccine is available for Rs 100 against Rs 250 for the tissue-culture vaccine. "About 40,000 persons are vaccinated against rabies each year," says senior virologist Subhash C. Arya, who caused a minor flutter by suggesting that CJD could be transmitted through the vaccine.

S.K. Shankar, co-author of the NIMHANS study, however, disputes Arya's contention: "Most of the 30 cases reported and studied till 1990 were vegetarians and had not been inoculated with rabies vaccine. Besides, rabies vaccine used in Bangalore and Bombay are manufactured at Belgaum and Hyder-abad and not in Kasauli where Scrapie is prevalent." He argues that, unless conclusively linked to...

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