Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) is a debilitating and fatal disease that occurs in humans throughout the world. It is characterized by progressive dementia and chronic seizures of muscles, ultimately leading to death. It most often occurs in people at age 50 or 60. The pathology is sponge-like changes in the brain.
It has been transmitted from human to human inadvertently during organ transplant and other surgical procedures. It has also been seen in people that were given human growth hormones as children. It is definitely infectious, although there is also a familial aspect. It is not caused by bacteria, viruses, mold or any other of the usual pathogenic materials. It is now known to be transmitted by a "prion" which is a section of protein devoid of any genetic material. It is able to replicate by using its host's DNA or RNA.
An animal form of the disease, known as scrapie, has been around for many hundreds of years, especially in sheep and goats. It has been known to be transmitted to the shepherds and goat herders, but the method of transmission is obscure. The most alarming form of the disease at present is "mad cow disease" (BSE) which is found mostly in Great Britain, although a few rare cases have been seen in the US. It is characterized by leg weakness and obvious abnormal mental behavior in infected animals. Herds that graze in the same fields show transmission from animal to animal; and those herds that eat the same food also see lateral transmission. This suggests that it may be transmitted by air, such as the prion being attached to dust or dust mites in the fields. In 1988 the use of sheep brains and other byproducts of butchered sheep in cattle feed in the USA was made illegal.
There have been cases of CJD in England all out of proportion to that seen throughout the world. It is especially found in the farmers and cattlemen that have infected breeds. Recently, a form of the disease has been found in a teenage girl (commonly only found in humans of age 50 or over). She was very fond of hamburgers, and her doctor blames them for the disease. Since the prions that are the infectious agent are in the diseased animals blood, they are also obviously in the muscle tissues and can be transmitted to humans who eat this contaminated meat. It is also felt that the prions attach themselves to the leukocytes (white blood cells) that appear in the milk. Thus it is possible to also transmit this disease by drinking the milk of infected animals.
Yet, many involved agencies say that there is no actual proof of the transmission of the disease from animal to humans. They have said that the "contaminated" feed was not proven to transmit the disease, despite a decrease in the incidence of the disease amongst the animals since the changes in the feed were made.
It is said that the incubation period may take many years, especially in humans. The truth is that there is no warning of the disease in animals or humans. It is not diagnosed until the irreversible symptoms of brain damage appear. At the present time there is no cure for the disease. There is good research being done with many suggestions of ways to combat the disease. These approaches prevent replication of the prion after it has already produced symptoms in the brain. The lesson to be learned is that herbivorous animals should not be fed animal parts; and the human does not need to eat other animals either. Even UK milk and milk products, such as cheese, should be avoided.
Dr. Devananda Tandavan, MD, is a member of the American Medical Association, the International College of Surgeons, the Society of Nuclear Medicine, the American Federation of Astrologers, the International Center of Homeopathy–and more. Send questions to Hinduism Today, 107 Kaholalele Road, Kapaa, Hawaii 96746 USA. Access Dr. Tandavan's WWW home page at:http: //www.Hinduism Today.kauai.hi.us/ ashram/