CJD TIMEBOMB

Dec 18 2003

Hundreds face nightmare wait to see if they were infected by blood

By Ian Smith And Judith Duffy

A NEW CJD scare was sparked yesterday after it emerged a blood donor may have passed on the deadly disease.

Two Scots donors are known to have died from the human form of mad cow disease.

Two patients who received tranfusions from them now face a terrifying wait to find out if they have contracted it.

And 300 Scots haemophiliacs may have caught it through blood plasma products.

In a shock statement yesterday, Health Secretary John Reid revealed a British man had died after being treated with blood from a donor carrying CJD.

It is the first such case recorded in the world but Reid stressed the evidence was not conclusive.

However, he admitted ''further precautionary measures'' would be needed to prevent the disease being spread.

He added: ''It is possible the disease was transmitted from donor to recipient by blood transfusion.

''The blood of the donor was infectious three years before the donor developed CJD. The recipient developed CJD after a six-and-a-half-year incubation period.''

The blood was given to a patient during surgery. Three years later, in 1999, the donor developed CJD and died.

The recipient died in autumn this year. Reid said it was possible the patient hadcontracted CJD from infected meat but no chances could be taken.

The announcement sent shockwavesthrough the UK's blood transfusion services, which have given 24 million units of blood or blood components to patients since 1996.

Medical experts are holding urgent talks to look at whether more precautions need to be introduced.

The Scottish donations four in total were also used to make blood products which treated hundreds of patients between 1986 and 1990.

Among them were the haemophiliacs, many of whom had already caught HIV and hepatitis from infected blood.

The Scottish National Blood Tranfusion Service could not put a figure on the number of people affected.

SNBTS consultant Dr Brian McClelland said the recipient who died was not a Scot.

He added: ''With regards to the safety of blood transfusions, the test I apply is what would I do if it was myself or a family member in need of one.

''I had surgery last year and told the doctors to give me blood if I needed it.

''I would say the same today it is better to have a very small possible risk of something going wrong in the future than to be dead today.''

Previous Scottish victims of CJD include Donna-Marie McGivern, 17, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, and Steven McCurry, 21, of Drumoyne, Glasgow.