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Br J Biomed Sci. 2004;61(1):48-54.

Leucodepletion for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey KT1 2EE, UK.


Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) have been recognised around the world for many years. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), one of the human forms of TSE, has been studied widely and thus far has not proved a great threat to human health. The emergence of two new TSEs--bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans in the UK--has caused great concern. BSE has had an economic impact and vCJD is a threat to human health. It has been shown that these two diseases are caused by the same prion agent and are linked. Research indicates that vCJD behaves differently to CJD and there is strong evidence to suggest that vCJD is present in lymphoid tissues and B lymphocytes, which presents a theoretical risk that it may be transmitted by transfusion of blood and blood products. To minimise/prevent this risk, the UK government has decided that plasma should be sourced from abroad and has instructed the National Blood Service to leucodeplete all blood and blood products, at a cost of 70 million pounds per annum, although it is not known if this will remove this risk.

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