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Eurosurveillance, Volume 10, Issue 6, 10 February 2005

Citation style for this article: Editorial team. First case of vCJD reported in a Japanese patient. Euro Surveill. 2005;10(6):pii=2640. Available online:

First case of vCJD reported in a Japanese patient

Editorial team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office

The first case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in a Japanese patient was announced by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare on 4 February 2005 [1]. The patient, who first experienced neurological symptoms in December 2001, and died in December 2004, was male and in his 40s.

The patient is reported to have spent approximately one month in the United Kingdom in 1988, although the exact length of his stay has not yet been confirmed. The possibility of exposure to the vCJD infective agent while the patient was in the UK is widely accepted at present.

On 16 September 2004, the Japanese CJD surveillance panel, in collaboration with the United Kingdom National CJD surveillance unit ( diagnosed an isolated form of CJD, and confirmed the need to further observe the developing symptoms.

On 3 February 2005, the CJD sub-committee reported that the characteristic findings of the post-mortem pathological investigation, which included a western blot, strongly indicated vCJD. A genetic mutation of the prion protein has not been detected.

There are no records of the patient ever having received a blood transfusion. Records of the Japanese Red Cross Society are still being checked to determine whether he ever donated blood.

There is ongoing further investigation into the cause of this case and the possibility of secondary transmission. The public is being provided with accurate information regarding vCJD.

Following the announcement of this case, the Japanese Pharmaceutical and Food Safety Bureau’s Blood and Blood Products Steering Committee have maintained restrictions on blood donors who have lived in the UK, but these will be regularly reviewed. The Japanese Red Cross Society has been instructed to refuse donations from people who have lived in the UK for longer than one month.

Japan first reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in farmed cows in 2001 and 14 cases of BSE were reported between 2001 and 2004 [3,4]. After the first case, the import, production and use of meat and bone meal was banned, and Japan implemented a programme of testing every carcass for BSE, and removing specified risk materials. It also suspended beef imports from countries with BSE.

Thanks to Kate Manvatkar for translation of the press releases from Japanese and to Neil Barron for checking the translation.

  1. Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Kokunai ni okeru henikei Creutzfeldt-Jakob-byo (vCJD) no hassei ni tsuite. Press release, 4 February 2005. (
  2. Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Nihon de no vCJD dai-ichi shorei no kakunin o uketa kenketsuji no taio ni tsuite. Press release, 4 February 2005 (
  3. Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Countermeasures of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). MAFF Update 431, 9 November 2001. (
  4. OIE. Number of reported cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in farmed cattle worldwide* (excluding the United Kingdom). Updated 7 February 2005. (

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