CJD: Growth Hormones and Vaccines

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Additional Material on Vaccines from c2000

There is evidence that medicines and vaccines could have contributed to some cases of CJD in Britain.  The BBC reported that more than 800 medicines, some of which were available in the UK, could carry a risk of variant CJD.  Also, it was stated that a brand of oral vaccine made from calf foetus serum was withdrawn after fears that it could be contaminated with BSE.  The Scottish Executive withdrew a  brand of oral polio vaccine which breached European BSE guidelines.  There was concern in the early 21st century because children were still being given oral polio vaccines using material from British cows. 


The Medicines Control Agency was criticised for allowing polio vaccines made from banned cattle products to be given to hundreds of thousands of people.  Criticisms have also been made over the safety of a medicine factory which has a history of contamination and production shortcomings.  Nevertheless, a causal link between two cases of variant CJD and a consignment of polio vaccine are unlikely to be true.  Although, it is the case that two individuals who suffered from CJD received the same polio immunisation derived from bovine material.


There have also been concerns over a pregnancy injection used in the early 2000's.  It needs to be acknowledged that British blood products, including vaccines given to children, could have been at risk of contamination. Concerns over vaccines have been a challenge from 1988 until at least the early 2000's.

A Summary of the Video

The video argues that the oral route, for the disease to spread, is inefficient.  It also suggests that a ‘stray burger’ did not cause CJD in the case of Andrew Black (pictured). A deduction can be made on the basis of these arguments. Meat consumption may not spread the disease well. Therefore, other possible routes for infection, such as vaccination, need to be considered.  This leads to a conclusion, in the video, that injecting prions is likely to spread the disease more efficiently than eating meat.  A vaccination may be needed to pass the disease (BSE) through the species barrier between cows and humans.

The Oral Route of BSE into Humans

 The oral route is a possible passage for the transfer of the disease between cows and humans. This is because primates are susceptible to prion disease through oral exposure to the BSE agent.  However, it is unclear how well BSE can be transferred from cows to humans.  An academic paper states that:

“Extrapolating from this finding to human disease is problematic as the sensitivity of one species to a particular prion strain does not necessarily indicate the sensitivity of another species, even if this species is closely related”. 

Background on Growth Hormones and Vaccines 

The presentation examines the relevance of growth hormones and vaccines to variant CJD.  Some of the deaths from variant CJD in the U.K. may have been caused by vaccination rather than beef (mechanically recovered meat) consumption.  Alternatively, vaccination and eating meat could both be relevant as causes of vCJD.

A series of poorly thought out experiments which used growth hormones could have caused BSE.  This problem with growth hormones is elaborated upon in an article in the Los Angeles Times.  The use of growth hormones could have caused BSE and then vaccines could have transferred the disease to humans. This is the introduction to an article from Nature which was entitled "Were some CJD victims infected by vaccines"? 

"Although food has been the overwhelming object of attention as the source of infection with variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD), there is a possibility that some of the victims, who are predominantly young adults, might have contracted the disease through immunization. The BSE (Phillips) inquiry's report calls for vaccines to be investigated as a possible route of transmission". K. Birmingham, Nature 408, 3-4 (2 November 2000).

It is possible that some of the small number of variant CJD cases could have been caused by a low number of contaminated vaccines.  The small number of victims is as a proportion of the total UK population.