Fears raised over link between human growth hormone and CJD

Further cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob (CJD) disease could arise as a result of human growth hormone treatment, even after low doses, suggests research in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Dutch researchers report on the case of a man who developed CJD 38 years after receiving human derived growth hormone.

A 47 year old man was given only a low dose as part of a diagnostic procedure, rather than being given full treatment, which may explain why the incubation period lasted so long – the longest on record – say the authors.

He had delayed growth as a child, for which he underwent testing using a form of human derived growth hormone to exclude growth hormone deficiency when he was 9. The source of the hormone used is not known, but it is highly likely that this man would have developed CJD by chance, say the authors.

His symptoms began with numbness in both arms, which progressed to difficulty in walking and involuntary movements. After eight months he was admitted to hospital and died five months later. CJD was confirmed at post mortem examination.

The first Dutch patient with CJD associated with human growth hormone died in 1990, but she had been treated with deep muscle injections over several years on various occasions.

There are 564 other registered recipients of the hormone in the Netherlands, who were treated before 1985, who are currently not suspected of having CJD.

But the authors conclude: “…This case indicates that still more patients with iatrogenic CJD can be expected in the coming years, the authors, adding “another implication of our study is that CJD can develop even after a low dose of human growth hormone.”

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