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During the late 1960s and 1970s, Britain imported a huge amount of carcase parts of mammalian origin from India.
Prof Colchester said there had been reports of human remains found in European ports and, although these were ostensibly for use in fertiliser, it was known they were used in animal feed because of cost.
"We think over a long period there was an accumulated risk of an infected human corpse entering into the animal feed," he said.
"We know from time to time they must have incorporated human remains that were crushed locally and then processed in the UK."
Professor Richard Ironside, director of laboratories at the UK CJD Surveillance Unit in Edinburgh, said the resistant nature of the agent that causes CJD meant it could survive transmission in human remains from India to the UK.
Human Remains in Feed may have lead to BSE in the UK
"We do not claim our theory is proved, but it unquestionably warrants further investigation," said the Colchesters
SK Bandyopathyay, husbandry commissioner for the Indian government, said: "I have not seen the publication but I think the hypothesis appears highly preposterous. I would like to see what evidence there is to support it."
About 3,800 sheep and cattle had been checked for similar diseases over the past four years and there had been no cases so far, Dr Bandyopathyay said.
"I know that some websites have put forward a theory about half-burnt human remains in Benares. But I would not expect this to appear in the Lancet. If it was true [that human infected remains were floating in the Ganges] then we should have had an epidemic in India. But there have been no cases of variant CJD. It defies logic, really."