Last year, laboratory test results from an autopsy of the individual's brain tissues tested positive for vCJD. Variant CJD is a rare, degenerative and fatal brain disorder with an incubation period that can be measured in years. It is believed to be caused by eating meat from cows with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or “mad cow” disease.
A consortium of physicians and public health experts led by the Baylor College of Medicine researched the case. Dr. Atul Maheshwari, an assistant professor in the college's departments of neurology and neuroscience and first author of the report, cared for the patient. Maheshwari said he believes that the patient was exposed to the contaminated beef outside the US more than a decade before he became ill.
“This article will alert physicians to the possibility that patients might have this illness, even though they were exposed over 10 years ago,” he said.
The disease has been linked to consumption of contaminated beef from the United Kingdom during 1980–1996.
“The source of exposure for the first three patients was probably consumption of beef while in the United Kingdom or Saudi Arabia, but the source of the most recent infection, in 2012, is less clear,” according to the report. “This patient had lived in the United States for 14 years before becoming ill, but the evidence indicates that this patient’s exposure to contaminated beef occurred outside the United States more than a decade before onset of his illness.”
Dr. Maheshwari explained that the patient had never stayed in the UK, France, or Saudi Arabia. He had, however, lived in Kuwait, Russia and Lebanon where he was most likely infected based on the number of years he spent there and the amount of British beef imported from the UK during that time. There is no evidence he transmitted the disease to anyone else.
“His case highlights the persistent risk for acquiring this illness in unsuspected geographic locations and the need for continued global tracking and awareness,” the report concluded.
CDC data shows that more than 220 vCJD patients have been reported worldwide with a majority of the cases occurring in the UK. In the US, only four cases have been confirmed.