Background: Apart from the small number of iatrogenic and familial cases, the cause of most cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is not known. We aimed to identify risk factors for sporadic CJD.
Methods: In a case-control study, we compared the medical history and selected demographic characteristics of 241 definite (neuropathologically confirmed) and probable (clinically likely) patients with CJD, ascertained from the Australian National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Registry between Jan 1, 1970, and October 31, 1997, and of 784 controls, recruited from the community by random telephone interview in August, 1997. Standard logistic regression was used for the comparisons.
Findings: Surgical procedures were significantly associated with the development of sporadic CJD. This risk progressively increased with the number of surgical treatments to a maximum for three procedures (odds ratio 2.13 [95% Cl 1.34-3.41], p=0.002). There was also a significant association between risk of CJD and residence or employment on a farm (p<0.001) or market garden (p=0.002) for longer than 10 years. We found no significant risk associated with a history of blood transfusion, organ transplantation, major dental work, or occupation.
Interpretation: Our findings accord with the hypothesis that a range of surgical treatments may serve as unrecognised contamination events and account for a proportion of cases of sporadic CJD. Possible biases in different methods and times for the acquisition of data on cases and controls suggest our findings need to be replicated in independent studies with community controls.