Mens Deaths NOT due to Eating 'Mad Deer' Meat: CDC

Posted by Mike Kremer on Jan 02, 2004 at 18:28

20 February 2002(Reuters Health)
Three deaths from degenerative brain disease were not caused by eating venison infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD), an illness akin to "mad cow disease," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported. ...

A deadly brain-wasting illness in humans has been linked to the consumption of beef from animals sick with mad cow disease. Concerns have arisen over whether CWD, which has been found in game animals in the western United States, could also spread to people via infected meat. These brain-wasting illnesses are referred to collectively as "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" (TSE) and are spread by particles called prions.

The study, reported in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for 21 February, documents an investigation of 34 men who had dined at a cabin in northern Wisconsin between 1976 and 2002 where elk, deer, antelope, and other game were served.

One man died at age 67 after developing progressive encephalopathy. Autopsy of brain tissue found signs compatible with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a type of TSE, but further examination revealed no evidence of prions.

Doctors diagnosed a second patient with CJD based on clinical signs and symptoms, and the diagnosis was confirmed by tests of brain tissue. However, the prion protein did not resemble that associated with CWD, study coauthor Dr. Vincent Hsu of the CDC told Reuters Health.

The third man died in 1993 at age 65. Autopsy results showed no evidence of CJD or other prion diseases.

No other cases of degenerative neurologic disorders were observed in the group of 34 men.

But limited studies like this one, Hsu and his colleagues note, do not rule out the possibility that CWD might cause human illness.

Source: MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2003; 52:1257.

Editor's comment. This report comes on the heels of reports from an increasing number of states describing CWD in free-ranging and captive deer and elk. CWD has been reported in 12 states to date: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, and it is highly likely that some other states are also involved. This report from the CDC about one investigation, which involved an apparent cluster of cases of degenerative CNS disease in 3 men, does not support any relationship between that disease and CWD in deer and elk. However, as stated in the last sentence of the news item, it does not rule out the possibility that such transmission may occur.

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