Blood, tissues, cells and organs

Precautionary measures against vCJD transmission by blood

Following the announcement by the United Kingdom in July 2004 confirming a second case of possible vCJD prion transmission via blood transfusion and the introduction of further precautionary measures to safeguard the blood supply, the Commission undertook to update a survey that was carried out in March 2004. It aimed to update the information on the precautionary measures taken by EU Member States on the current risk of vCJD transmission by blood in their country and the impact on their blood supply of deferring blood transfusion recipients, both in general and specifically from the UK, from donating.

The results showed that since March several Member States had introduced permanent deferral of donors who have had a blood transfusion since 1980 and others were planning to discuss this measure shortly with their national scientific or blood committees. None, however, were planning to introduce the new measures implemented in the United Kingdom. Excluding the UK, the survey continued to show that with the exception of Ireland, Member States generally considered the threat to their citizens of contracting vCJD through blood to be low or virtually non-existent based on current knowledge.

EP and Council Directive 2002/98/EC on the quality and safety of blood and blood components and Commission Directive 2004/33/EC on certain technical requirements for blood and blood components have put in place:
  • permanent deferral criteria for persons who have a family history which places them at risk of developing a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), or persons who have received a corneal or dura mater graft, or who have been treated with medicines made from pituitary glands.
  • temporary deferral criteria for blood donors who have inter alia received a blood transfusion, a tissue or cell transplant of human origin, or undergone major surgery;
  • deferral for particular epidemiological situations.These deferrals are to be notified by the competent authority to the Commission with a view to Community Action.

The Commission will continue to monitor this situation.