Bioassay Studies Support the Potential for Iatrogenic Transmission of Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease through Dental Procedures

Elizabeth Kirby, Joanne Dickinson, Matthew Vassey, Michael Dennis, Mark Cornwall, Neil McLeod, Andrew Smith, Phillip Marsh, James T. Walker, J. Mark Sutton, Neil D.H. Raven

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    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Evidence is required to quantify the potential risks of transmission of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob (vCJD) through dental procedures. Studies, using animal models relevant to vCJD, were performed to address two questions. Firstly, whether oral tissues could become infectious following dietary exposure to BSE? Secondly, would a vCJD-contaminated dental instrument be able to transmit disease to another patient? Methods: BSE-301V was used as a clinically relevant model for vCJD. VM-mice were challenged by injection of infected brain homogenate into the small intestine (Q1) or by five minute contact between a deliberately-contaminated dental file and the gingival margin (Q2). Ten tissues were collected from groups of challenged mice at three or four weekly intervals, respectively. Each tissue was pooled, homogenised and bioassayed in indicator mice. Findings: Challenge via the small intestine gave a transmission rate of 100% (mean incubation 157±17 days). Infectivity was found in both dental pulp and the gingival margin within 3 weeks of challenge and was observed in all tissues tested within the oral cavity before the appearance of clinical symptoms. Following exposure to deliberately contaminated dental files, 97% of mice developed clinical disease (mean incubation 234±33 days). Interpretation: Infectivity was higher than expected, in a wider range of oral tissues, than was allowed for in previous risk assessments. Disease was transmitted following transient exposure of the gingiva to a contaminated dental file. These observations provide evidence that dental procedures could be a route of cross-infection for vCJD and support the enforcement of single-use for certain dental instruments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere49850
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2012


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