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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  2003: Volume 7/ Issue 51 Article 2
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 7, Issue 51, 18 December 2003

Citation style for this article: Possible case of transfusion-associated variant CJD in the United Kingdom. Euro Surveill. 2003;7(51):pii=2345. Available online:

Possible case of transfusion-associated variant CJD in the United Kingdom

Communicable Disease Report Weekly editorial team, Health Protection Agency, London, England

The first case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) thought to have been infected via a blood transfusion may have been seen in the United Kingdom (UK). The case, who died in autumn 2003, received blood during an operation in the first half of 1996. At that time neither the donor nor the recipient showed any signs of illness. The donor became ill in 1999 and subsequently died. The recipient became ill earlier this year, and post mortem tests confirmed the diagnosis of vCJD. Although there is no proven causal link between the two cases, the possibility of the blood transfusion being the route of infection for the second case cannot be ruled out.

The transfusion took place before 1997, when the first of a series of measures to protect against such possibilities took place. Since that time all reports of cases of vCJD are checked against blood donor records, and any stocks from such donors are immediately destroyed. In 1998 a programme was begun to remove white cells from donated blood (leuco-depletion), as they were considered to be a potential source of infection. Also in 1998, the use of UK sourced plasma in the manufacture of blood products was phased out, a process that was completed at the end of 1999. The UK National Blood Service ( the expert committee on the microbiological safety of blood and tissues for transplantation are to review current procedures in the light of this case.

Up to this point in time, fifteen other people in England and Wales are known to have received blood from donors who subsequently developed vCJD, five of whom received blood after the implementation of leuco-depletion. The earliest transfusion was in 1993, the latest in 2001. These cases are being contacted.

A full transcript of the statement by the Secretary of State for Health to the House of Commons on 17 December 2003 is available at

  1. HPA. Possible case of transfusion-associated variant CJD. Commun Dis Rep CDR Wkly 2003; 13 (51): news. (

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