[Marxism] Junk science alert: Human Mad Cow, variant CJD, may be wide-spread in USA

Jose G. Perez elgusanorojo at bellsouth.net
Tue Feb 3 07:55:34 MST 2004

 "[Mad cow] is a crisis that could get a whole lot worse. U.S. studies
of autopsies are showing that between 3 per cent and 13 per cent of
patients found to have Alzheimer's or dementia actually suffered from
variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease."


This assertion is unsourced in the original Montreal Gazette article,
and is not backed by scientific data.

A quick Google search shows the original source of the information
appears to have been a UPI wire service story that was either
misunderstood or consciously distorted by the Montreal Gazette. That
story appears to have been taken down from a U.S. government public
health web site where it was posted, but was still available in the
Google cache here:

However the UPI story does NOT say that "U.S. studies of autopsies are
showing that between 3 per cent and 13 per cent" of Alzheimer's patients
"actually suffered from variant CJD, the human form of mad cow disease."

The reporting in the UPI story was that "Laura Manuelidis, section chief
of surgery in the neuropathology department at Yale University, who
conducted a 1989 study ... found 13 percent of Alzheimer's patients
actually had CJD. 

"Several studies, including the one by Manuelidis, have found autopsies
reveal 3-percent-to-13-percent of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's or
dementia actually suffered from CJD."

"Variant" CJD and plain CJD are considered two different diseases with
similar causes and outcomes but easily distinguishable through
microscopic examination of brain tissue. The Montreal Gazette article
confounds one with the other.

Plain CJD is believed to be mostly a spontaneously occurring disease of
age, although 15% of the cases are believed to be genetically linked or
transmitted (through surgical instruments, for example). 

Elsewhere in the story, the writer makes clear that the 13% CJD cases
was of those "originally" diagnosed with Alzheimer's by "respected and
competent neurologists and psychiatrists at Yale" in 1989. This is
significant for several reasons. First, these were cases presumably
referred to Yale specialists, and the question arises whether these
referrals were made because the cases were especially difficult or
unusual. Second, Alzheimer's was the original diagnosis. We don't know
if this means they were never correctly diagnosed, or if, after the
disease had begun to progress, a correct diagnosis was made. We also
don't know that the sample from which 13% were found to have CJD was a
sample of *all* Alzheimer's patients treated by these physicians, or a
selection of suspect or special cases in some way. And we do not know
the *size* of the sample. 

Trying to project statistically from a 15-year-old study like this tells
us a lot MORE about the irresponsibility and ignorance of the Montreal
Gazette and its writers than about what is going on in the United

That this is being done quite consciously and for the purpose of hyping
the story is demonstrated by the choice of the progressive present tense
"... studies of autopsies are showing ..." making the data sound more
closely associated with the current Mad Cow outbreak. 

In material written by specialists for a general audience, health
experts affirm that CJD and variant CJD presents a series of symptoms
that are easy to spot over a relatively short period of time, and that
even if as the disease first presents, it seems like it might be
Alzheimer's its very rapid and devastating progression makes it
relatively easy to suspect cases. 

That there has been undetected a massive epidemic of Mad Cow disease
among humans in the U.S. that's gone undetected for at least 15 years,
and possibly much longer, is simply not a hypothesis with any data to
back it up that I am aware of. 

What is presented by the Montreal Gazette is sensationalist bourgeois
journalism, not science.


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