Mother's plea for more Government action over vCJD

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The Southsea mother of a man who died from the human form of mad cow disease today went to Downing Street to demand the Government took action to prevent more deaths from the disease.

Christine Lord, of Wilton Terrace, Southsea, Portsmouth, handed in a petition raising questions about the former Conservative government's handling of the crisis.

Her son, Andrew Black, died from variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) a year ago this week at the age of 24.

Ms Lord said: 'I want justice for my son Andrew. To do that I need answers and I've asked the Prime Minister for his help in getting them.'

Ms Lord's visit to Downing Street came as the Government chief advisor on vCJD warned a possible new wave of the illness could kill as many as 350 people in the UK.

Professor Chris Higgins highlighted the case of a patient dying from the disease who appeared to have a different gene type from previous victims.

The first wave of vCJD, caused by eating infected beef products between in the 1980s and early 1990s, has been responsible for 164 deaths, peaking at 28 in 2000 and dwindling over the following years to about one case annually.

All these victims belong to a gene type known as MM. Every individual inherits either an M or V gene from each of their parents, determining their vulnerability to the disease.

Those with two M genes, the MM group, make up 42% of the population and are thought to be more susceptible, while those with one of each, the MVs, are thought to be more resistant, and make up 47% of the population.

Clinical tests suggest the new patient has an MV gene type, although this cannot be confirmed until a brain biopsy is carried out after their death.

The possibility of an MV sufferer has raised concerns the illness may have a longer incubation period among this group than among MMs, and that other victims may start to show symptoms contracted as long as two decades ago.

Speaking outside Number 10 Ms Lord said: 'I've also asked the Prime Minister to help stem a secondary, self-sustaining epidemic, which is being caused by infected blood, by supporting tests for blood donors.'

She said official estimates were that one in every 1,000 people could have the disease but the total could be much higher.

She added: 'vCJD has not gone away. Young people are still dying of this avoidable and acquired disease.

'A year ago it was my son Andrew, next year it could be you, or your son or daughter.'

She was accompanied by Liberal Democrat Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock.

He said: 'It is still going on and new cases are coming up every day.'