Researchers have identified some of the main risk factors of CJD, including administration of cadaveric hormones, dural graft transplants, and the use of contaminated surgical instruments—the majority of which follow surgery. It is common for hospitals to borrow expensive systems and sterilize them thoroughly, but with CJD, routine sterilization isn’t enough. There are special protocols that must be employed to make the operating room safe after a CJD exposure.
So what’s the prognosis for patients who may have been unwittingly exposed to this nefarious protein? If by chance CJD was contracted, there is unfortunately no effective treatment, and the disease is considered uniformly fatal. The incubation period for CJD ranges from 5 to 30 years; however, death usually occurs between six months to one year from the onset of symptoms. On the bright side, the odds that the at risk patients contracted CJD are very low.
That brings us back to the people of Papua New Guinea, who are resistant to this class of disease. This discovery may serve as the catalyst that enables scientist to better understand the molecular causes and possible treatments of prion based diseases, such as kuru and CJD. Scientists are on the verge of demonstrating that a single change in DNA may confer complete resistance to a fatal disease.