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UK considers gauging latent vCJD infection with tests on all postmortems

This article was originally published in Clinica

Executive Summary

The UK government is considering extending postmortem examinations with tests for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), in order to better gauge the extent of latent infection across the entire population. Concerned that 166 UK deaths to date may not reflect the true prevalence, with the significant risk that this poses to transmission through surgery and blood transfusion, the Department of Health (DoH) wants postmortems to include tests on tissues that are known to accumulate the prion protein responsible for vCJD, such as the spleen and the brain. Some 115,000 postmortems are ordered by coroners every year in England alone. The Coroners' Society for England and Wales has criticised the initiative as "inappropriate", but the Health Protection Agency and DoH are reportedly keen to develop the plans and are assessing the practical and legal implications.

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