In Britain, Peter Behan, a top neurologist, claimed that a 15-year-old young woman came down with "mad cow disease" because of her propensity for devouring hamburgers.
He described how she was very ill with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human analog to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which was first found in British cattle during 1986. Both illnesses lethally rot the brain. In late April 1996, the girl was being treated in a Scottish hospital.
Authorities of hospitals in southern England had earlier said that they had found another three potential cases in humans. While the Scottish hospital claimed that only an autopsy could provide a solid diagnosis, Behan said that in the case of the aforementioned teenager, a new U.S. test had been utilized.
During March 1996, many countries had banned British beef because of the possible link between CJD and BSE--a contention based until recently on circumstantial evidence, plus the damage caused by a deformed version of the protein molecule PrP in both diseases. Ten cases of CJD had been diagnosed in Britain from February 1994 to October 1995.
Recent research may possibly explain the link. An article by David C. Krakauer, Paolo Zanotto, and University of Oxford colleagues, published in the April 25, 1996 Nature, examined PrP in 33 animals. The PrPs of humans, apes and cattle have the same variations at amino acids number 143 and 155. These similarities may well account for the sharing of the diseases across species lines.