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Red Cross Bans Blood Donations from CFS Patients

The American Red Cross (ARC) announced on its Web site December 3, 2010, that it won’t accept blood donations from individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It maintains that donor deferrals are necessary in light of a possible, though yet to be established, link between CFS and xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV).


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, XMRV is thought to infect many types of human cells, including some types of blood cells. If it is transmissible through blood donations, it could possibly present a threat to blood safety. In addition, a potential link between XMRV and CFS in humans was reported by researchers in a 2009 study published in Science. The report showed that XMRV was found in approximately two-thirds of CFS patients. However, other studies showed an absence of XMRV in individuals with CFS.


The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Task Force is conducting research to determine the frequency of the virus in the donor population, whether it is transmitted via blood transfusion, and if recipients can become infected and develop the disease. Further, the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks) Interorganizational Task Force is reviewing data, assessing the risk of transfusion-induced infection by XMRV and providing information to the public. In addition, AABB is recommending that blood-collecting organizations use donor education materials to discourage CFS patients from donating.


In the meantime, ARC is erring on the side of caution. “At present, there are no specific federal recommendations regarding deferral of individuals with CFS or other diseases that have been associated with XMRV infection. Nevertheless, in the interest of patient and donor safety, the American Red Cross will defer indefinitely any donor who reveals during the donor interview that they have been diagnosed with CFS,” read part of the statement. Currently there is no cure for CFS and there are no drugs to treat it.


Sources: Bloomberg news (online), December 4, 2010 and ARC press release dated December 3, 2010

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