Estimation of the exposure of the UK population to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy agent through dietary intake during the period 1980 to 1996

PLoS One. 2014 Apr 15;9(4):e94020. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094020. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Although the incidence of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) has declined to 1 since 2012 in the UK, uncertainty remains regarding possible future cases and the size of the subclinical population that may cause secondary transmission of the disease through blood transfusion. Estimating the number of individuals who were exposed to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) infectious agent and may be susceptible to vCJD will help to clarify related public health concerns and plan strategies. In this paper, we explore this estimate by describing the probability of potential exposure due to dietary intake throughout the BSE epidemic period from 1980 to 1996 as a stochastic Poisson process. We estimate the age- and gender-specific exposure intensities in food categories of beef and beef-containing dishes, burgers and kebabs, pies, and sausages, separating the two periods of 1980-1989 and 1990-1996 due to the specified bovine offal legislation of 1989. The estimated total number of (living) exposed individuals during each period is 5,089,027 (95% confidence interval [CI] 4,514,963-6,410,317), which was obtained by multiplying the population size of different birth cohorts by the probability of exposure via dietary intake and the probability of survival until the end of 2013. The estimated number is approximately doubled, assuming a contamination rate of [Formula: see text]. Among those individuals estimated, 31,855 (95% CI 26,849-42,541) are susceptible to infection. We also examined the threshold hypothesis by fitting an extreme-value distribution to the estimated infectious dose of the exposed individuals and obtained a threshold estimate of 13.7 bID50 (95% CI 6.6-26.2 bID50) (Weibull). The results provide useful information on potential carriers of prion disease who may pose a threat of infection via blood transfusion and thus provide insight into the likelihood of new incidents of vCJD occurring in the future.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Carrier State
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome / history
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Encephalopathy, Bovine Spongiform / transmission*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Food Microbiology*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Meat Products
  • Public Health Surveillance
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This work was funded by the National Science Council (NSC-98-2118-M-400-001). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.