Blood donor linked to CJD

New evidence has emerged that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) can be passed from person to person through infected blood, it was revealed today.

Health Secretary John Reid told MPs of an incident in which a patient died after receiving blood six years earlier from a donor who contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

This is the first report from anywhere in the world of the possible transmission of the brain disease through blood transfusions.

Dr Reid said the donor showed no signs of illness at the time he gave blood. Soon afterwards, the donated blood was transfused into a patient who underwent surgery for a serious illness.

In 1999, three years later, the donor developed variant CJD and died shortly after.

The disease did not develop in the recipient until this year, and the patient died earlier this month.

A post-mortem examination had shown changes in the recipient's brain indicative of variant CJD.

Dr Reid said: "In light of the facts which I have outlined, it is therefore possible that the disease was transmitted from donor to recipient by blood transfusion, in circumstances where the blood of the donor was infectious, three years before the donor developed vCJD, and where the recipient developed vCJD after a six-and-a-half-year incubation period."

Now the committee has been asked to look at "whether further precautionary measures could be taken which would not adversely impact on the safety or availability of blood".

Dr Reid said he was also asking the National Blood Service to seek urgent talks with the Medical Royal Colleges and NHS hospitals about the use of blood and blood products.

Since 1996, about 24 million units of blood or blood components had been given to patients in the UK, said Dr Reid.

He pointed out that although blood transfusion could be life-saving, no medical treatment was free of risk. Each year, about 12 people died as a complication of blood transfusion.

So far, there have been 143 variant CJD cases in the UK, although the number of new cases are falling.

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