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vCJD (Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease)

Confirmed Case of Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) in the United States in a Patient from the Middle East

The Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce the recent confirmation of a vCJD case in a U.S. resident. This is the third vCJD case identified in a U.S. resident. This latest U.S. case occurred in a young adult who was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and has lived in the United States since late 2005. The patient occasionally stayed in the United States for up to 3 months at a time since 2001 and there was a shorter visit in 1989. In late November 2006, the Clinical Prion Research Team at the University of California San Francisco Memory and Aging Center confirmed the vCJD clinical diagnosis by pathologic study of adenoid and brain biopsy tissues. The two previously reported vCJD case-patients in U.S. residents were each born and raised in the United Kingdom (U.K.), where they were believed to have been infected by the agent responsible for their disease. There is strong scientific evidence that the agent causing vCJD is the same agent that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease).

Variant CJD is a rare, degenerative, fatal brain disorder that emerged in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. Although experience with this new disease is limited, evidence to date indicates that there has never been a case transmitted from person-to-person except through blood transfusion. Instead, the disease is thought to result primarily from consumption of cattle products contaminated with the BSE agent. Although no cases of BSE in cattle have been reported in Saudi Arabia, potentially contaminated cattle products from the United Kingdom may have been exported to Saudi Arabia for many years during the large U.K. BSE outbreak.

The current case-patient has no history of receipt of blood, a past neurosurgical procedure, or residing in or visiting countries of Europe. Based on the patient's history, the occurrence of a previously reported Saudi case of vCJD attributed to likely consumption of BSE-contaminated cattle products in Saudi Arabia, and the expected greater than 7 year incubation period for food-related vCJD, this U.S. case-patient was most likely infected from contaminated cattle products consumed as a child when living in Saudi Arabia (1). The current patient has no history of donating blood and the public health investigation has identified no risk of transmission to U.S. residents from this patient.

As of November 2006, 200 vCJD patients were reported world-wide, including 164 patients identified in the United Kingdom, 21 in France, 4 in the Republic of Ireland, 3 in the United States (including the present case-patient), 2 in the Netherlands and 1 each in Canada, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Spain. Of the 200 reported vCJD patients, all except 10 of them (including the present case-patient) had resided either in the United Kingdom (170 cases) for over 6 months during the 1980-1996 period of the large UK BSE outbreak or alternatively in France (20 cases).

As reported in 2005 (1), the U.S. National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western Reserve University confirmed the diagnosis in the one previously identified case of vCJD in a Saudi resident. He was hospitalized in Saudi Arabia and his brain biopsy specimen was shipped to the United States for analysis. This earlier vCJD case-patient was believed to have contracted his fatal disease in Saudi Arabia (1).

1) Belay ED, Sejvar JJ, Shieh W-J, Wiersma ST, Zou W-Q, Gambetti P, Hunter S, Maddox RA, Crockett L, Zaki SR, Schonberger LB. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease death, United States. Emerg Infect Dis 2005, 11 (9):1351-1354.


Date: August 23, 2010
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID)
Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology (DHCPP)
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Prion Diseases

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD)

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