Britain to investigate the connection between mad cow disease and dentistry

Britain's Health Protection Agency said Monday it is investigating whether the human form of mad cow disease can be transmitted through dental work.

The three-year experiment, begun recently, was announced at the agency's annual conference at the University of Warwick, the AP informs.

The main routes of transmission of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans, are believed to be eating infected beef, or through blood transfusions.

"This is really an information gathering exercise," Joanne Dickinson, one of the researchers, was quoted as saying by the AP.

When the experiments are concluded, she added, "the Department of Health will have the information to decide what the level of risk is and what measures need to be put in place."

The Department of Health wrote to dentists in February outlining precautions to prevent transmission of the disease from infected patients. Urging dentists to observe proper decontamination procedures, the letter said that "under these conditions, routine dentistry is understood to be low-risk, and therefore no special infection control precautions are advised for the instruments used on symptomatic or at-risk patients."

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