In the eighties and the early part of the nineties the Hodmandods were not particularly affluent. Some of the time we were students and the rest of the time young parents. We ate a lot of minced meat of one sort or another because it was cheap and easy to prepare and we all liked it. But now I know that this was the time when cattle were stumbling around their fields and then kicking the hands that milked them. Incredibly, the cows that were showing these symptoms of madness were dispatched quickly for slaughter and converted into meat. Altogether 640 billion doses of bovine spongiform encephalitis were consumed. No doubt the Hodmandods consumed some of them. It is a sobering thought.
According to this book if the prion had proved to have been as infectious as flu we would all be dead by now. But in fact there have been only 150 cases of vCJD. The agent which causes vCJD has not been very effective at crossing the species barrier. Furthermore it turns out that we have a genetic resistance to contracting the disease: individuals that are 'homozygotic' ie have the same two copies of a code to produce the amino acid methionine are more likely to get vCJD than those who have two different codes to make the protein.
This leads to a very interesting discussion on how our cannibalistic activities early in the history of mankind probably selected us to be resistant to prion disease.
There is no cure for prion disease yet but a way of preventing the build-up of amyloid plaques (dead misfolded proteins which occur in prion disease as well as in Parkinson's, multiple schlerosis, Alzheimers, Huntington's, Crohn's, rheumatoid arthritis and late onset diabetes) may be of benefit to many.
The book ends by explaining the author's interest: he too has a degenerate disease, although his has a slow chronic nature. He is somewhat dismissive of his condition, and I suppose in comparison to FFI it seems less dramatic, but I found his attitude both heroic and affecting.