- Top scientists are recommending a Europe-wide ban on
all blood donations from anyone connected with Britain because of the risk
of CJD contamination. They also cast doubt on the effectiveness of "washing"
all donated blood - a precaution introduced in Britain to prevent patients
catching the disease from infected donors.
- And last night their fears begged the question: if our
European neighbours are so concerned about the safety of our blood supplies,
shouldn't we be as well?
- After the publication 10 days ago of the 14-volume report
into the BSE inquiry, the Government could be forgiven for thinking it
could breathe a sigh of relief and draw a line under the crisis. But now
the European report, from an influential EC scientific body, has made certain
that the legacy of CJD will continue to haunt the nation.
- There is as yet no evidence that variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
Disease can be transmitted through the blood. Extensive studies have failed
to prove that the abnormal protein associated with CJD is present in human
- However, the report says that in view of the latest scientific
information on the subject, "data are being gathered to evaluate whether
or not an exclusion measure based on time spent in the UK might be appropriate".
- Experts admit that they still know very little about
the disease. They cannot rule out that CJD may be in the blood of victims,
in forms they have not yet examined. A series of experiments on mice have
found that CJD can be transmitted through the blood. And recently a sheep
was found to have contracted CJD after receiving an injection of blood
from another infected animal.
- As a precaution, all blood donations in Britain are washed
to remove the possibility that an infected donor could pass on CJD. The
measure was an attempt to allay fears of contamination during the height
of the BSE crisis.
- But the report by the European Agency for the Evaluation
of Medicinal Products has now said that there is still no strong evidence
that the process of washing removes all possibility of infection. In essence,
the precaution taken by the Department of Health may not be effective.
- CJD expert Dr Paul Brown, who is the senior research
scientist at the National Institute of Health in Washington DC, admits
that the British process of washing blood is not foolproof.
- He said: "You cannot say that this process is 100
per cent safe. It is the best they can do at present in Britain, until
we discover whether CJD is in human blood. So much more research is being
done, but we will not know these answers for a few months, or a year."
- The experts say British blood is most probably safe.
Along with the Government, they insist that there is still no evidence
that CJD can be transmitted in human blood.
- But the issue remains: why, therefore, is the report
from Europe recommending a blanket ban on British blood donations and blood
from those who have lived in the UK? Obviously a great deal of research
has to be done, and fast.
- Blood transfusion expert Dr Luke Noel, from the World
Health Organisation in Geneva, said the possibility of an EU ban on British
blood has been recommended because the European countries involved can
afford to implement the measure. On the other hand, Britain will not stop
using its own blood, despite the possible risks, because it would not be
able to import enough "safe" blood.
- He said: "We are still longing for information on
this subject. The area is still very blurred. But what you must remember
is that the British are having to balance different risks. There is the
risk that blood could carry CJD and that it can be passed through transfusions.
And the other risk is that by banning British blood from British hospitals,
people would die due to a lack of the commodity.
- "If the UK decided to import all of its blood, would
that be an unjustified precaution being put ahead of the basic need for
blood for patients?" In Britain, the number of victims of CJD will
only slowly emerge. With 81 people dead and an ever-growing age range of
those affected, it is unclear how many will eventually die.
- Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, recently said the
death toll could run into hundreds, if not thousands.
- BUT following the BSE inquiry report, mini-sters promised
that such a tragedy would never be allowed to happen again. A new Food
Standards Agency will prevent diseased products from making it to our table.
From now on, we should not be able to catch CJD from our food.
- However, these promises could become hollow if research
discovers that CJD can be transmitted through blood and that the disease
has continued to spread through this route.
- Dr Tim Wallington, consultant immunologist for the Blood
Transfusion Centre, admitted the service is in a very difficult position
but said it has done all it can to protect the public.
- He said: "We have looked at importing blood from
abroad, but it is impossible. Countries in Europe do not have enough for
themselves, so getting the 2.5million units which we require every year
would not be possible and so against that background it could not be sourced.
It is about not creating another problem."
- The centre is, however, looking at a project to import
blood plasma products used in clotting. These would replace the plasma
products which are presently used and come from UK donors. The decision
is a direct result of fears of contamin-ation from CJD.
- Europe is not alone in considering the ban on British
blood pro-ducts. America, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and France
have individually made the decision to ban such blood donations. However,
any Europe-wide question mark over the safety of British blood will only
continue to raise concerns at home about the safety of our transfusions.
- Last night, the Department Of Health refused to comment
on whether the report exposed the possible risks that recipients of British
blood transfusions are facing.
- Tories call for ban on beef from France
- THE Tories yesterday demanded a ban on imports of French
beef amid fears that BSE is rife in cattle there.
- The French government is expected to announce a ban on
sales of beef on the bone following a rise of up to three times since last
year in positive tests for BSE.
- Some of the country's schools and restaurants have already
stopped serving French beef. Conservative agriculture spokesman James Paice
said the European Commission should ban exports of French beef.
- If it refused, Britain - whose beef is still excluded
from France despite being cleared for export by Brussels - should impose
a unilateral ban, said Mr Paice.
- "We should remember that when it was first realised
that BSE could lead to new variant CJD, the European Commission banned
the sale of all British beef," Mr Paice told BBC Radio.
- "I would look to the European Commission to do the
same now for French beef and ban it completely. If the European Commission
won't ban it, I think our Government should.
- "That's exactly what the French have done to us
in refusing to accept our beef - Europe lifted the ban and the French unilaterally
decided not to."
- Mr Paice said the French still allowed farmers to feed
their cattle - against European rules - on meat and bone meal, banned in
the UK for 10 years.
- He said the rise in positive tests for BSE followed anecdotal
evidence of French farmers concealing the extent of the disease in their
herds by killing and burying sick cows rather than reporting their condition.
- Since the announcement of the high BSE levels, France's
biggest chain of steakhouses, Phoenix Grill, has stopped serving home-grown
beef on the bone, many schools have banned French beef and sales of the
meat to butchers by Paris wholesale markets have dropped by a third.
- Mr Paice said: "The British Government has a responsibility
to follow the Phillips Report on BSE, which it commissioned and spent £32million
of taxpayers' money on.
- "It is a good report with a lot of sensible comments."
- © Express Newspapers, 2000
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