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Rare Brain Disease May Have Spread

October 27, 2000

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A patient who died after brain surgery had an incurable disease that may have spread to eight other patients through tainted instruments, hospital officials said.

Tulane University Hospital and Clinic destroyed the instruments as soon as officials realized the first patient had died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, said Dr. Alan Miller, a Tulane vice president.

The patient checked into the hospital in March and the disease was diagnosed in an autopsy in May, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The university said the other patients all had brain surgeries and the surgical instruments were put through ``normal″ washing and sterilization procedures.

Citing patient confidentiality requirements, Tulane did not release the patients’ names or the dates of the procedures. The eight living patients are receiving counseling and related medical care, Miller said in a statement.

University officials declined requests for interviews Friday.

The disease strikes about 6,000 people a year, leaving the brain with holes and a spongelike consistency, resulting in progressive dementia and loss of physical functions. Patients usually die within a year of the first symptoms.

University officials did not say whether the original patient had the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob that may be related to a bovine brain disorder known as ``mad cow disease.″ Some authorities believe humans contract that form of the disease by eating meat from infected cows.

It was not known how the original patient contracted the disease. The only proven method of transmission between people is medical treatment with tainted human matter or surgical instruments, according to the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation.

The independent group that renewed the hospital’s accreditation last month for three years, will investigate, as will the federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid.


On the Net:

Creutzfeldt-Jakob foundation: http://www.cjdfoundation.org

Hospital: http://www2.tulane.edu/medical_hospital.cfm

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