The evidence for the existence of a link between variant CJD and the spongiform encephalopathies has always been controversial. In 13 October British Medical Journal, George Venters, a consultant in public health medicine for Lanarkshire Health Board in Scotland, says the evidence "casts serious doubts on the case for a causal link" (BMJ 2001, 323:858-861).

Venters claims that the 'variant' CJD identified after the emergence of the disease in the 1980s is probably not even a new disease. Instead, he says it is probably a "misdiagnosed but extremely rare disease" that has been identified more often because of closer scrutiny by national disease surveillance units in recent years.

Using standard epidemiological criteria — such as temporality, dose-response relations and biological plausibility — to assess the likelihood of a causal link between vCJD and BSE he found no direct evidence that the BSE prion was infectious to humans....

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