Patients face 'substantial CJD risk'

Twenty four people accidentally given blood transfusions contaminated with the human form of mad cow disease are now at "substantial" risk, an expert said today.

















Professor John Collinge made the assessment after investigating the third case of a person known to have acquired variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) from a blood transfusion.



Writing in The Lancet medical journal, he said blood transfusions seemed to be an efficient route for transmitting the infectious prion proteins believed to cause vCJD.



The first two cases of vCJD infection linked to transfusions were reported in 2004.



Both patients had received blood from donors who later developed the disease. One recipient developed signs of vCJD after six years, and died 13 months later.



The second did not develop symptoms and died from an unrelated cause five years after the transfusion. A post mortem then revealed evidence of vCJD.



The third patient, a young man of 23, was the first to be diagnosed with the brain disease while still alive.



Like the others, he was given blood from a donor who later developed vCJD. Seven-and-a-half years after his transfusion he was referred to the NHS National Prion Clinic at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. There, his symptoms were confirmed to be caused by vCJD.



The patient joined a drug trial testing a potential treatment for the disease in 2004, but died a year later aged 32.



Initially 66 transfusion patients were known to have received infected blood from donors who developed vCJD.



Many were seriously ill from other causes and subsequently died for reasons unrelated to the disease.



Today a total of 24 remain alive, but facing an uncertain future. VCJD has a long incubation period which may vary according to an individual's genetic make-up.



Prof Collinge, from the Medical Research Council's Prion Unit, said today: "That three individuals from this small group of people that we know to have been exposed through blood transfusion have already developed vCJD infection suggests that the infection may be efficiently passed by this route, so the risk to remaining individuals is likely to be substantial.



"A national tonsil tissue screening study being performed by the Health Protection Agency may soon give estimates of the number of people who are silently infected with prions. This information is vital for public health planning given the relative ease with which prions seem to be passed on by blood transfusion."



He said it might be possible for a person to be silently infected with vCJD for more than 50 years before developing symptoms.



During this time a "carrier" posed a potential risk to others, by transmitting the infection through donated blood or contaminating surgical and medical instruments.



The incubation period was likely to be much less when vCJD was passed from one person to another in blood, rather than being acquired by eating contaminated beef.



Without having to jump a "species barrier" from cows to humans, vCJD spread via a blood transfusion could develop in just six or seven years, said Prof Collinge.



Tests on the latest victim revealed that his tonsils were infected with vCJD prions.



Previously it had not been certain that looking at tonsils could identify patients infected by a blood transfusion.



Prof Collinge said: "Although we do not yet have an effective treatment for any form of CJD, a reliable tonsil test could allow people with vCJD to access experimental treatments early."





PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

    Investigo: Finance Business Partner

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

    Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

    £8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project