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BACKGROUND: Person-to-person transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) has occurred through blood transfusion and could also theoretically occur as a result of the transplantation of organs or tissues. This study aimed to investigate whether there were transplant-associated vCJD cases in the United Kingdom (UK).
METHODS: Medical histories were reviewed for 177 UK vCJD cases to identify situations where the transplantation of organs or tissues might have occurred. A "look-back" was then performed to trace the respective donors or recipients of the implicated organ or tissue.
RESULTS: A single patient had undergone an organ (liver) transplant before vCJD onset, from a donor who had died of causes unrelated to vCJD. The look-back was able to trace six other organ or tissue donations made by the same donor. No other situations were identified where the receipt or donation of organs or tissues had occurred in people who went on to develop vCJD. There was considered no need, on this particular occasion, to implement public health measures associated with the organ transplantation, beyond those already in place.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides no evidence of transplant-associated vCJD in the UK. It is, however, important to continue to seek to identify individuals who might be at risk of vCJD by this route so that appropriate public health measures can be implemented.