No one is immune to the human form of mad cow disease, variant CJD, new research suggests today.
Some people whose genetic make-up normally acts as a barrier against infection may ultimately develop a different and so-far unrecognised type of disease, it is claimed.
Scientists have shown that individuals with a pair of genes known as MM – about a third of the population – acquire vCJD relatively easily.
No one with a different paring, VV, has been known to suffer the disease.
Then in August it emerged that a patient from a mixed MV genetic group had been infected with vCJD from contaminated blood, without showing any symptoms. Just over half the population has the MV pairing.
The news sparked fears of a mad cow disease “timebomb” in the population, with thousands of people unwittingly carrying the brain disease on a long incubation fuse.