To date, four instances of probable transfusion-transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) infection have been described, and surviving recipients of vCJD-implicated blood components have been informed that they may be 'at risk' of vCJD. Nearly two-thirds of all recipients of vCJD-implicated blood components are deceased, and many died before the vCJD risk was known. The primary aim of this study was to determine retrospectively whether there was evidence that any of the other deceased recipients of vCJD-implicated blood components had any clinical signs or symptoms suggestive of vCJD in life. In addition, pathological material from recipients, stored at the time of surgery or autopsy, was sought to allow testing for evidence of vCJD infection. A secondary aim of the study was to obtain information on invasive healthcare procedures undertaken on recipients following the transfusion to identify the potential for onward transmission of infection.
A retrospective review of medical case notes of deceased recipients of vCJD-implicated blood components was carried out, and relevant information was extracted. In cases undergoing post-mortem, details of the findings were obtained.
The medical case notes of 33 (83%) deceased recipients of vCJD-implicated blood components, not already known to be infected with vCJD, were reviewed. The median age of recipients was 68 years (interquartile range 57-79 years). Almost half (16) were male. The median time from transfusion to death was 175 days (interquartile range 43-701 days). Most (66%) recipients died in hospital. None of the recipients had documented evidence of clinical signs or symptoms suggestive of vCJD. Only two recipients, both of whom died within a year of transfusion, underwent autopsy examination. Neither brain nor peripheral lymphoreticular tissue was available from either recipient, and pathological material was unavailable from any of the other deceased recipients. Almost half of all recipients underwent at least one invasive healthcare procedure post-transfusion.
A retrospective review of the medical case notes of the deceased recipients of vCJD-implicated blood components found no evidence that any further cases expressed clinical signs or symptoms suggestive of vCJD during life, but only four of the recipients survived for more than 5 years post-transfusion.