Sir, - Creutzfeldt Jakob disease is an extremely rare neurodegenerative disorder thought to be transmissible through a slow virus. Prior to the advent of mad cow disease and possible links to humans, this disease has occurred sporadically throughout the world. Human to human transmission has occurred inadvertently during infected cadaveric transplantation of the cornea in eye surgery. Workers have also become infected when handling diseased brain matter of primates. More laterally several patients who have been treated during childhood with growth hormone from infected human pituitary extracts, have also developed the disease. Familial inheritance has also occurred with larger cluster groups being found amongst Libyan Jews. The disease is classified as pre senile dementia occurring in the mid 50s. Now there is a suspicion of a possible mutation of this prion protein with CJD occurring in a much younger age group. What is in store for the future no one knows as it would be presumptive to cause panic. But the worrying aspect is that CJD has a very slow incubation period sometimes taking many years to develop. But from the start of the first symptom to death may be less than one year.

If there is a link to aberrant feeding practices in the British national herd or even the use of herbicides like Phosmet now must be the time for farmers world wide to re examine their rearing techniques to avoid future calamities. All too often intensive farming practices have led to growing controversy, particularly towards the end of this century, as the public at large becomes more enlightened regarding food products. The agricultural world must look seriously to the minority of farmers who practice organic methods. They stringently adhere to the guidelines of the world soil association and IOFGA. In the case of meat production this is produced without the use of synthetic chemicals and animals are raised on natural grass without the use of chemical fertilisers. Prevention of disease is a primary part of this practice with herbal and homeopathic treatments used when necessary. The animals are fed on organically produced fodder and herbal grassland that has not received applications of artificial nitrogen. The pundits will say that it is not so cost effective as intensive methods but the cost far outweighs the almost Armageddon type hysteria that has occurred in the last few weeks with the devastating consequences for the British meat market. Consumer confidence must be restored before we are all forced to live in a world of pure vegetarian eating habits.

As far as I am aware there are no recorded cases both in Ireland or in the UK of BSE occurring in organic herds. It therefore makes sense to practice safer codes of natural farming.

Animal meat is an excellent form of protein. CJD is still an extremely rare illness. Let us all see that it remains that way by moving towards greener methods. - Yours, etc.,


Highfield Hospital,

Swords Road,

Dublin 9.