Though the overall incidence rate of CJD remains low, it still poses a large potential threat to public health. Even though sporadic and familial CJD cannot be prevented, other transmissible prion diseases can and should be prevented. Based on previous research and recommendations, the following section describes the authors' recommendations to reduce prion disease incidence.
In order to reduce the incidence of vCJD, testing meat meant for slaughter and usage is essential. With the exception of Japan, current rates for BSE testing in cattle are very low. New regulations should include at least random testing of a large proportion of cattle. Even if the tests do not evaluate every single animal, they should include healthy appearing cattle in addition to older cows and downer cows. The testing should include at least random sampling from different populations on different farms.
What can an individual consumer do to lower their risk or increase the likelihood of more widespread testing? On an individual level, consumers can refuse to eat beef, deer or elk which are the animals TSEs have found to be able to be transmitted to humans through consumption of flesh. If you don't eat it, there is no chance you can become infected through this mechanism. If the individual consumer must eat these meats, they should demand that the meat companies test their meat. They can do this by boycotting individual meat companies until testing is implemented (which is essentially all of them in the U.S.). They can also write to or call governmental officials demanding that widespread testing be implemented for cows being produced for human consumption. You can contact your local senator, in Minnesota, you can contact Senator Amy Klobuchar, and let her know your concerns. Her phone number is 1-888-224-9043.
The current regulations need to be amended to include all types of cow meat used for various purposes. It only takes a small amount of infected material to spread BSE among cows, so if a cow is processed while having BSE, there is a possibility that other cows in the same facility could contract BSE. But if the infected cow was diagnosed as such, meat-processing facilities could dispose of the carcass properly and prevent any further spread of the disease between cows.
More research must be conducted surrounding many aspects of prion diseases. Cheaper and easier methods to test for BSE in cows need to be further researched. This would increase the likelihood that more farmers would implement testing among their cattle populations. Additionally, more research needs to go into discovering effective vaccines, treatments, or potentially cures.
Protocols for dealing with infected surgical instruments need to be followed, and in every possible case, instruments need to be disposed of in the appropriate fashion (as laid out by the WHO in 1999).
There are many questions that remain regarding the molecular mechanisms of prions that would aid in both testing for, inoculating against, and treating prion diseases. Researchers are still working on understanding the complete structure of the prion, which will allow us to understand how to test for it and treat at a much more precise level. Another question that remains is the normal function of PrPC in the cells, which could help us understand the next question of the way that infectious prions lead to neurodegeneration and TSE. Moreover, it is important to understand the molecular basis for how infectious prions replicate or transform normal prions proteins. The facet of prion diseases that should be investigated further is how to distinguish and why different strains of TSEs exist. This knowledge could aid in understanding the reasons for the presence (and lack) of species-barrier in prion transmission, and could shed light on how to test for and treat the different symptoms observed in TSEs.