Cadaver-Derived GH and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

DebbieOney debbieoney at aol.com
Thu Jul 23 06:19:37 EST 1998

I've been asked by a reader of this message board to post my posting on
Cadaver-Derived GH and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

I want to make you aware that athletes who use or have used cadaver-derived
Growth Hormones (GH) are at high risk of developing Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
(CJD), the horrendous infectious fatal brain-deteriorating disease.  United
States physicians used cadaver-derived GH treatments until May,1985 when people
who had been treated with it as children for short stature developed CJD. 
Since then physicians in the United States have used synthetic GH treatments. 
However, there are reports that athletes have used cadaver-derived GH since
1985.  (See end of article).. And, the physician of a French boybuilder who
died of nvCJD (new variant CJD linked to Mad Cow Disease) in 1996 thinks he may
have contracted it from self-injections of contaminated bovine somatotrophin. 
I would ask you to please make other athletes aware of the danger of getting
CJD as a result of the use of cadaver-derived GH.   Also, athletes who have
used cadaver-derived GH should not donate blood or body organs since they are
at high risk of CJD.  I'd be interested in hearing of any CJD cases you know of
among athletes.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) has greater public health consequences than the
mere number of reported case might lead one to believe because it is not a
reportable disease in most places, is often misdiagnosed, is infectious and is
not killed by normal sterilization.  CJD is a horrendous infectious fatal
brain-deteriorating disease for which there is no treatment or cure.  It is
caused by a prion, which is a protein.  One strain of CJD (nvCJD, i.e. new
variant CJD) is linked to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (i.e. Mad Cow
Disease) in England.  CJD is more common than reported.  In one study of
Alzheimer patients 13% when autopsied were found to really have CJD. 

In the United States and throughout the world people get CJD through 3 means:
familial (genetic), sporadic (don't know how) and iatrogenic (through a medical
procedure such as cadaver-derived growth hormone (GH) treatments, contaminated
surgical equipment and dura mater and cornea transplants.)   CJD can take
decades after exposure for the patient to show symptoms.  However, once a
person shows symptoms their decline is rapid and they usually die within a year
of first showing symptoms.

CJD should be considered whenever a patient develops a rapid dementia and
myoclonus. The initial symptoms are subtle and ambiguous and include insomnia,
depression, confusion, personality and behavioral changes, strange physical
sensations, and  memory, coordination and visual problems.  Rapidly
progressive dementia and usually myoclonus (involuntary, irregular jerking
movements) develop as CJD progresses.  Also,  language, sight, muscular
weakness, and coordination problems worsen. The patient may appear startled
and become rigid. In the final stage the patient loses all mental and physical
functions. The patient may lapse into a coma and usually dies from an
infection like pneumonia precipitated by the bedridden, unconscious state. The
duration of CJD from the onset of symptoms to death is usually one year of
less.  A 14-3-3 spinal fluid test is over 95% effective in diagnosing CJD when
symptoms are present.  (For information on the test contact Dr  Clarence
Joseph Gibbs, Jr.; National Institutes of Health, (30l) 496-4821 or 6321.)
CJD patients often die at home and therefore have home health service and have
family members as caregivers.

Since early signs of CJD are often psychological, victims will often receive
psychological treatment as either an in-patient or an outpatient.  In
addition, people, including school-age children of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
victims who die in their 40s or younger, often require counseling to deal with
the death.  And, then there's the recipients of medical treatments such as
human pituitary growth hormones and dura mater transplants who are at high
risk of CJD and the people with a genetic mutation for familial CJD who must
live with CJD hanging over their heads.  Another group includes people who
receive withdrawal notices that the blood they or, worst yet, their children,
received came from a pool which included a donor that died of CJD.  While the
question of whether CJD is passed through blood products is yet to be
resolved, receiving this type of notice causes great anxiety in people.

Also, since normal sterilization methods do no kill the CJD infectious agent
and, it can therefore be spread by surgical instruments, it is more of a
danger to public health than mere number of cases would suggest..

Whether CJD is spread by human blood is controversial,.  Many people get
transfusions every year.  Pooled blood products are withdrawn as a precaution
if it is found after the product has been released that a person in the donor
pool has died of CJD of is at higher risk of contracting CJD.  However, by
this point it has often already been used in humans.  Many people such as
hemophiliacs and Alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency sufferers use blood products
constantly to maintain their health and therefore, receive many withdrawal
notices.  In addition, many people get gammaglobulin shots.  Also, while the
controversy remains as to whether CJD can be passed through blood products,
blood products continue to be used as an ingredient in vaccines such as the
measles-mumps-rubella, rabies and allergy shots; in InVitro Fertilization
(IVF) cultures; and in medical test fluids.

Even though people have received notices that the blood products they were
given have been withdrawn due to CJD risk they can still donate blood.  Also,
England recently decided to not use its own people to get blood plasma any
more and to get blood plasma  from other countries due to fears of nvCJD (the
CJD related to Mad Cow Disease) being transmitted through blood.  Yet people
from England can donate blood in the United States and Canada.  At the end of
this e-mail I have included the U. S. Congressional Mandate requesting the
Centers for Disease Control to conduct a study to assess whether the CJD
infectious agent is spread through blood products.

CJD Voice is an e-mail discussion group.  Most members have lost a loved one
to CJD or currently have a loved one with CJD.  Other members include people
who took human pituitary growth hormones as children and therefore are at
higher risk of getting CJD and people who received notices that the blood
products their children received were from a pool that included a person who
died from CJD.  It provides support to these people as well as tries to
increase funding for CJD research so treatments and a cure can be found.  The
CJD website has a message board, chat room, links to other websites with CJD
information and a list of CJD researchers accepting financial contributions.

The address for the CJD Voice Website is
Please feel free to visit the website and to refer other people to it.

 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Creutzfeldt-Jakob
     Disease Program

     A Congressional Mandate

In response to concerns that CJD may be transmitted through blood or blood
products, the U.S. Congress requested that the CDC conduct a study to assess
whether CJD is a threat to the safety of the nation's blood supply. Researchers
believe that the risk of transmission to humans through blood products is very
small since there have been no known cases of CJD contracted by humans in this
manner. However, precautions are being taken to assure that the blood supply is
safe from this infectious agent. Current blood safety policy requires that any
products made from blood donated by a person who later develops CJD, or is
found to have risk factors for CJD, must be withdrawn. Until the question of
transmissibility is resolved, the availability and the price of blood products
continue to be adversely impacted by shortages caused by recalls and the
destruction of blood products which, to date, has cost over $100 million.

     The Program: How You Can Help

Because the signs and symptoms of CJD may not develop for up to 30 years, a
person could be infected and not show any symptoms during his or her lifetime.
Furthermore, there is no screening test available for CJD and the only sure way
to test for CJD is by analyzing brain tissue after death. The CJD program asks
families of individuals who have received blood products to donate brain tissue
after their death. The brain tissue will be shipped to Stephen J. Armond, M.D.,
Professor of Neuropathology, University of California, San Francisco to test
for evidence of CJD. Other brain tissue will be stored at CDC in Atlanta for
analysis in the future when more is known about the cause of CJD.

Participation in the CJD program is voluntary. The CDC is aware that the death
of a family member is a difficult time to make important decisions. Therefore,
the CDC is working through your regional coordinator, physician, and treatment
center staff to provide support to you and your family as you discuss brain
tissue donation. To help with making an informed and rational decision, the CDC
has developed information packets which answer commonly asked questions about
the program including: 
     how to authorize the donation; how confidentiality will be assured;
     the ability to retrieve the brain tissue without disfigurement
     and without affecting funeral arrangements; and the time frame for
     receiving test results.

Cadaver-Derived Growth Hormone Articles

Brainum, Jerry. Growth Hormone: Certain Forms Could Be Deadly: GH Derived from
Cadavers Could Incubate Lethal Brain Cancer - And It's Still Available in
Europe!  Muscular Development.  September, 1998; 146.

Deyssig, Roman and Frisch, Herwig. Self-administration of cadaveric growth
hormone to power athletes. The Lancet 1993; 341: 768-769.

Doctor thinks hormone linked to new case of CJD.  Reuters World Report Fri, Jan
9, 1998  http://www.cyber-dyne.com/~tom/jan_10_98.html

Former Growth Hormone Users: "Walking Time Bombs" MUSCLEMEDIA Dec 1996, No 55,
pg 113

Debbie Oney, MSW, MHA
DebbieOney at aol.com

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