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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2006: Volume 11/ Issue 49 Article 2
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 11, Issue 49, 07 December 2006

Citation style for this article: Editorial team. Third case of vCJD reported in the United States. Euro Surveill. 2006;11(49):pii=3091. Available online:

Third case of vCJD reported in the United States

Editorial Team (, Eurosurveillance editorial office

A clinical diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) was confirmed after brain biopsy investigations in a United States (US) resident and reported in November [1]. The patient is a young man who grew up in Saudi Arabia and lived in the US since late 2005. Before that he visited the US once in 1989 and several times after 2001. He has never visited any country in Europe or received a blood transfusion nor has he undergone any neurosurgical procedure. This vCJD case is the third in a US resident. The previous two patients both grew up in the United Kingdom (UK), and this is where they were believed to have been infected [2].

In Saudi Arabia, the first and only previous case of vCJD was reported in 2005. This was suspected to be related to consumption of meat contaminated with the prion agent which causes bovine spongiform encephalitis in cattle (BSE). The European Food Safety Authority ( has not published a geographical BSE risk assessment for Saudi Arabia [3] and there have been no cases of BSE in cattle reported by Saudi Arabia to the World Organisation for Animal Health ( Although the UK is not the only potential beef exporter to have had a BSE epidemic, it remains plausible, subject to Saudi Arabia's import policy, that contaminated beef was inadvertently imported from the UK to Saudi Arabia in the period before 1996 (when the EU banned the export of UK beef and cattle).

Based on this patient's history, the occurrence of a previously reported case of vCJD in Saudi Arabia, and the expected length of the incubation period for food-related vCJD, the most likely source of infection is thought to be contaminated meat products the patient consumed as a child when living in Saudi Arabia. The patient has no known history of donating blood, and investigations have identified no risk of onwards transmission within the US.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease was first identified in the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s. As of November 2006, worldwide there have been 200 vCJD cases: 164 patients in the United Kingdom, 21 in France, four in Ireland, three in the US (including the present case), two in the Netherlands and one each in Canada, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Spain [4]. All patients, except 10 (including the present case) had lived either in the United Kingdom (170 cases) or in France (20 cases). Evidence so far indicates that the most probable source of infection in most cases was consumption of meat products contaminated with the prion agent causing BSE.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Confirmed Case of Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) in the United States in a Patient from the Middle East. (
  2. 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.
  3. European Food Safety Authority . Geographical BSE Risk (GBR) assessments covering 2000-2006. List of countries and their GBR level of risk as assessed by the Scientific Steering Committee and the (EFSA). 1 August 2006. (
  4. Variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease. Current data – December 2006. (

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