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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 05:59 GMT
Polio vaccine link to vCJD dismissed
A CJD brain
The UK has seen 113 cases of definite or probable vCJD
Scientists investigating a possible link between a polio vaccine and new variant CJD say they have found no evidence to connect them.

A brand of oral vaccine made from calf foetus serum was withdrawn last year after fears that it could be contaminated with BSE.

The Department of Health said that of five people who had developed vCJD in the Southampton area in 1994, two had been given vaccine made from UK-sourced bovine calf serum.

But a meeting of the independent Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (Seac) later found no evidence that the vaccine carried a risk of vCJD.

Wellcome produced around 30 million doses of the vaccine between the late 1980s and October last year.

It was then withdrawn after the Department of Health learned that the manufacturers' assurances over the calf foetus serum were inaccurate.

Contaminated products

Seac also stressed that any historical theoretical risk had to be balanced against the "overwhelming benefits" of the immunisation programme.

Many scientists believe that humans can contract vCJD after eating contaminated products from cows with BSE.

Current vaccines use bovine material sourced in Australia, New Zealand, the USA or Canada.

There were 113 cases of definite or probable vCJD in the UK between 1996 when doctors distinguished it as a new form of the rare brain-wasting disease CJD and 3 December.

Common factors

At that date 10 patients were still alive.

The National CJD Surveillance Unit looks for common factors, including medical and personal history, in all vCJD cases.

The Department of Health said in a statement: "Finding common factors does not mean that a cause has been identified - but we report such findings to Seac so that any implications can be assessed."

See also:

18 Mar 01 | Health
Medicines could carry vCJD
20 Oct 00 | Health
Polio vaccine in BSE scare
16 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Sore throat link to CJD
14 Feb 01 | Health
CJD compensation announced
04 Jan 01 | Health
Hospital drive to cut CJD risk
20 Oct 00 | Health
vCJD and BSE - the link
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