Mad Cow/CJD In
The Blood Supply
Possible CJD Risk From White Blood Cells
LONDON (Reuters) - Haemophiliacs could have an increased risk of infection with the human equivalent of mad cow disease through white blood cells, a doctor warned on Friday. Dr Christopher Ludlam, chairman of the UK Haemophilia Centre Director's Organisation, said there was a possibility that white blood cells in people infected with the new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), but without symptoms, could transmit the infection. In a letter to The Lancet, he said the abnormal prion brain protein that causes the disease was found in the tonsils and spleen of victims. White blood cells are produced in both organs. Two batches of Factor VIII blood concentrate, an essential clotting agent, that were produced from plasma from people who later developed the disease have already been withdrawn in Britain.

``We should not underestimate the anxiety that nvCJD has created for those with haemophilia,'' Ludlam wrote. He said Britain is already considering a move to remove white blood cells from donated blood and plasma. But even if the new policy is approved, it would take time to implement and new cases of the disease could lead to further recalls of clotting factor concentrates. ``The recent withdrawal of concentrates and other blood products in the UK means that patients will require counselling, not only recipients of these batches, but also others at risk from products derived from the same source plasma,'' he added. Haemophilia is an inherited disease in which sufferers' blood does not clot because of a deficiency in Factor VIII.

Women carry the disease. Half their sons will be affected and half their daughters will be carriers. Medical experts know that blood carries the agent that causes mad cow disease and CJD but so far there is no evidence that anyone has been infected with the brain-wasting disease through transfusions, plasma or other blood products. Britain's mad cow crisis heightened on Wednesday after the government ordered a ban of all beef on the bone after research showed that the agent that causes BSE could be transmitted through nerves near the spinal cord.

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