BACKGROUND: Concerns have been raised that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) might be transmissible by blood transfusion. Two cases of prion infection in a group of known recipients of transfusion from donors who subsequently developed vCJD were identified post-mortem and reported in 2004. Another patient from this at-risk group developed neurological signs and was referred to the National Prion Clinic.
METHODS: The patient was admitted for investigation and details of blood transfusion history were obtained from the National Blood Service and Health Protection Agency; after diagnosis of vCJD, the patient was enrolled into the MRC PRION-1 trial. When the patient died, brain and tonsil tissue were obtained at autopsy and assessed for the presence of disease-related PrP by immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry.
FINDINGS: A clinical diagnosis of probable vCJD was made; tonsil biopsy was not done. The patient received experimental therapy with quinacrine, but deteriorated and died after a clinical course typical of vCJD. Autopsy confirmed the diagnosis and showed prion infection of the tonsils.
INTERPRETATION: This case of transfusion-associated vCJD infection, identified ante-mortem, is the third instance from a group of 23 known recipients who survived at least 5 years after receiving a transfusion from donors who subsequently developed vCJD. The risk to the remaining recipients of such transfusions is probably high, and these patients should be offered specialist follow-up and investigation. Tonsil biopsy will allow early and pre-symptomatic diagnosis in other iatrogenically exposed individuals at high risk, as in those with primary infection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy prions.
- Blood Transfusion
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome
- Fatal Outcome
- Middle Aged
- Palatine Tonsil