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Scientists have found evidence to suggest that more people could be harbouring the human form of BSE than previously thought.
Researchers at Plymouth's Derriford Hospital and the CJD Surveillance Unit tested 12,674 appendix and tonsil samples - three showed signs of vCJD.
Extrapolating their findings to the whole population, they estimated that 3,800 Britons may harbour the disease.
The findings are published in the Journal of Pathology.
A total of 141 people have died from vCJD in the UK since the disease emerged in 1995.
Scientists have been suggesting that the number of deaths from the disease had peaked.
A recent study by researchers at Imperial College London predicted the disease would claim no more than 540 lives.
The scientists who carried out this latest study said their findings "need to be interpreted with caution".
"There is still much to learn about vCJD and presence of the protein in these tissue samples does not necessarily mean that those affected will go on to develop vCJD," said lead researcher David Hilton.