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New UK Case of vCJD Infection through Transfusion

On January 18, 2007 the United Kingdom (UK) Health Protection Agency (HPA) announced a new case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) from a blood transfusion. The individual, who has not been identified, was reportedly diagnosed with the rare, degenerative fatal brain disorder nine years after receiving a blood transfusion from an asymptomatic infected donor.  At least one previous case, also resulting from a blood transfusion, has been linked to the same donor.

The HPA is an independent public health agency that provides support and advice to the UK National Health Service, local authorities, emergency services and other entities.

“This new case of vCJD infection increases our concern about the risk to the small group of people who had blood transfusions from donors who unknowingly at the time of donation must have had vCJD infection,” said Professor Peter Borriello, Director of the HPA’s Centre for Infections. “However, this new case does not change our understanding of the risk for other people in any specific way. It does, however, reinforce the importance of the precautions that have already been taken to reduce the risk of transmission of vCJD infection by blood.”

While this is the fourth transfusion-related case in the UK, vCJD is most often linked to eating contaminated meat from cows infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The infection in cattle is called mad cow disease. Since 1990, approximately 158 people, mostly in the UK, have died from definite or probable vCJD.

None of the four reported cases of vCJD transmission via blood transfusion has been associated with plasma-derived factor concentrates. Further, there have been no cases of vCJD transmission through the U.S. blood supply. Currently, tests are being developed to detect vCJD and vCJD infections in blood and plasma donors. Since 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has enforced donor deferral policies among all blood donations from people who lived or visited the UK for three months or longer between 1980 and 1996.

Source: The Independent, January 19, 2007


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