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From: TSS ()
Subject: Blood Bank doctor fears more blood donors at risk of vCJD IRISH BLOOD TRANSFUSION SERVICE DR. MURPHY
Date: July 16, 2005 at 6:52 pm PST

Blood Bank doctor fears more blood donors at risk of vCJD

by Donal Bergin
The National Medical Director of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service Dr William Murphy has warned that thousands of people could have been exposed to BSE-infected meat eaten here years ago.

Following the recent confirmation by the Department of Health of another “probable case” of variant-CJD – the second in less than a year – Dr Murphy expressed concern over the potential for further cases of vCJD.

He said that there was “clearly a problem” with the food supply in Ireland around a decade or more ago when the two recent cases would have contracted the disease, which he was deeply concerned about.

“How shocking is the fact that people go down with this disease from eating food in Ireland? This is not a criticism but an observation of how we perceive risk. People might be more shocked that the blood supply might be contaminated rather than the food supply being contaminated.”

Asked is there a problem with the food supply, Dr Murphy told IMN: “Clearly there was with these two patients having come down from eating food in Ireland. They were infected in their teens or earlier, and hundreds of thousands of our children have been exposed to contaminated food. I find that deeply frightening.”

“I’m not diminishing the risk of the blood supply at all,” he added. He said it was too early to say if more cases would emerge, given generational changes in meat consumption, but “the current estimates are only estimates”.

He would not comment on whether he was happy with the response to BSE from the agricultural sector, saying he had no particular expertise in that area, but it was “just luck” vCJD from food was not more widespread.

Dr Murphy said the Blood Bank had taken all possible measures to try to prevent what had happened in the recent case (where the person with probable vCJD had donated blood). He said more blood donors could develop vCJD.

Dr Murphy said the donor had donated earlier this year, and would not have been deferred under the IBTS’s precautionary vCJD measures, and had never lived in the UK at any stage of his/her life. “Our estimates were there could be between none and 15 cases anticipated in Ireland; most likely there would be one and we now have two Irish indigenous cases; so there was always the possibility that there would be blood donors involved.”

Meanwhile, Dr Murphy called for the immediate implementation of alternatives, where appropriate, to allogeneic blood transfusion, such as autologous donation, self-salvage, and pre-surgical assessment units.

“I think any proven method of reducing your need for blood as indicated should be implemented as a priority. And these are covered in the recommendations of the Blood Strategy Implementation Group, and I think implementation of these recommendations should be given top priority.”

In relation to a possible filter to remove vCJD from blood, he said there are two filters being considered, and the Blood Bank has carried out pre-clinical trials on one system, which looked promising.

The plan is to bring this into initial clinical trials on 200 patients, starting in October, sponsored by the Blood Bank with the approval of the Irish Medicines Board, to be finished next April or May, he said.


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