HL Deb 15 December 1997 vol 584 cc67-8WA
Lord Marlesford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they believe a post mortem examination of a sample of all deceased people would help to establish the extent of human infection with CJD in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington)

As part of the comprehensive research strategy into the human health aspects of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies we have commissioned a retrospective analysis of previous deaths from dementia-like diseases and a systematic survey of all autopsies performed in the Oxford area over a three-year period beginning in July 1997. The aim of the survey is to validate the current national surveillance protocols by ensuring that no cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) are being missed.

In the meantime the government-funded National CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh will continue to investigate cases of suspected CJD. Since the unit was established in 1990 72 per cent. of all cases referred who subsequently died have been subjected to post-mortem examination. Eighty-two per cent. of new variant CJD (nvCJD) cases have been subjected to post-mortem examination.

There is at present no test which can be carried out before or after death which enables CJD infectivity to be detected before the appearance of clinical symptoms.