- 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who later developed the disease have already been withdrawn in Britain.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.