Scientists say they have developed a detergent wash that reduces the possibility of brain disease CJD being transmitted during operations.
Many people have the disease for some time without knowing it
Researchers at University College London say it could be available in hospitals by the end of the year.
There has been concern the proteins thought to cause CJD are not destroyed by routine sterilisation.
It is believed when people unknowingly harbouring CJD have surgery, it could be passed to others via instruments.
Scientists tried 400 combinations of chemicals and found one that destroyed the prion proteins thought to cause the human form of mad cow disease, or BSE, to the point where they were undetectable.
Surgical instruments will only need to be soaked in the solution for an hour.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is working on guidelines for surgeons to help minimise the risk of transmitting CJD infections through operations.
The report is not expected until May 2006.
More than 140 Britons have died of variant CJD (vCJD) in the past decade.
Until recently it had been thought that BSE was linked only to the variant form of the disease.
But in November Medical Research Council experts said BSE may also manifest itself as sporadic CJD, a new form of the disease not yet seen in humans.
The study raised the possibility that more people than previously thought may be at risk of contracting CJD.