Experts said their study had "important implications" for how blood and blood donations are managed and for the handling of surgical instruments.
The findings suggest a "high prevalence of infection with abnormal prion protein, indicating vCJD carrier status in the population".
But the researchers noted that, despite the higher number of carriers, just 177 vCJD cases have been reported to date in the UK. It is a fatal, degenerative brain disorder which is the human form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).
The disease is believed to have passed from cattle to humans through consumption of contaminated meat products.
The new study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), involved analysis of more than 32,000 appendix samples from people of all ages who had their appendix removed between 2000 and 2012 at more than 41 hospitals in England.
Of these samples, 16 tested positive for abnormal prion protein, indicating that one in 2000 of all people are likely to be carriers. Professor Azra Ghani, a reader in infectious disease modelling at Imperial College London, said: "These results highlight the need to maintain both case surveillance and precautionary measures."