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From: TSS (
Subject: Update on precautions to protect blood supply
Date: August 6, 2004 at 8:23 am PST

Update on precautions to protect blood supply

Thursday 22 July 2004
Reference number:

Following advice from the Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissue (MSBT) further measures to reduce the risk of transmission of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) via blood transfusion were announced today.

Following the first resport of a possible transmission of vCJD from person to person via blood in December 2003 it was recommended that recipients of blood transfusions since January 1980 be excluded from donating blood in the future. This precautionary measure was implemented from April 5th this year.

Today two further groups who have received transfusions since January 1980 will be added to those excluded from giving blood in the future. They are:

donors who are unsure if they have previously had a blood transfusion; and

apheresis donors who have previously had a blood transfusion. Apheresis donors are a small pool of committed donors who make frequent attendances to centres to donate blood, where machine processing removes only certain blood components, and the rest is returned to the donor.

When actions were taken in April 2004 neither of these groups were excluded until any potential impact on the blood supply became clearer. However, it has become apparent that the impact on blood supplies is small and MSBT has therefore recommended that these additional groups can be excluded. These new exclusions will take effect from 2nd August 2004.

In a separate development, a second case of possible transmission of vCJD from person to person via blood tranfusion has now been confirmed by the National CJD Surveillance Unit. A patient in the UK received a blood transfusion in 1999 from a donor who later went on to develop vCJD. The patient died of causes unrelated to vCJD but a post mortem revealed the presence of the vCJD agent in the patient's spleen.

After the first person to person transmission of vCJD was indentified it was expected that further cases may follow. This second case is of particular scientific interest as the patient had a different genetic type to that so far found in patients who have developed vCJD. A detailed account of the case will be appearing in The Lancet medical journal shortly.

Precautions already in place to protect the blood supply include:

Since 1997 all cases of vCJD that are reported to the National CJD Surveillance Unit and diagnosed as having 'probable' vCJD, result in a search of the National Blood Service blood donor records. If the patient has given blood, subsequently any stocks of that blood are immediately destroyed.

Since 1998, plasma derivatives, such as clotting factors, have been prepared from plasma imported from the USA.

Since October 1999, white blood cells (which may carry the greatest risk of transmitting vCJD) have been removed from all blood used for transfusion.

In August 2002 we announced that fresh frozen plasma for treating babies and young children born after 1st January 1996 would be obtained from the USA.

In December 2002, the Department of Health completed its purchase of the largest remaining independent US plasma collector, Life Resources Incorporated. This secures long-term supplies of non-UK blood plasma for the benefit of NHS patients.

The Secretary of State for Health John Reid said:

"We are continuing to follow a highly precautionary approach. Although people may have concerns about the implications of this announcement, I would emphasise again that the exclusion crieteria are being tightened because of a small but unquantifiable risk. People should continue to have a blood transfusion when it is really necessary. Any slight risk associated with receiving blood must be balanced against the significant risk of not receiving that blood when it is most needed.

"People who can, should continue to give blood. Blood donation is a safe procedure and people should continue to donate blood regularly. We place great value on those who already donate and would welcome new donors."

For media enquiries ONLY please contact the Department of Health press office on the numbers provided:

Press Office

Press Officers
020 7210 5649/5656/5282.


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