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Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and donating blood

Sanquin makes every effort to ensure the safety of blood transfusions. Below you can read which rules are in effect to prevent blood contamination with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Classic form of Creutzfeldt-Jacob

The classic form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rare brain disease. We have been asking every donor questions relating to this disease since 1995. Among other things, we ask if you have ever been treated with growth hormone and thyroid stimulating hormones of human origin. Growth hormone of human origin has not been marketed in the Netherlands since 1985. There are no known cases of classic CJD transmission via blood transfusion, but we cannot rule out the theoretical possibility of it happening.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Sanquin applies a number of rules to prevent contamination with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In 1996, a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) was discovered in humans. This new brain disease is probably caused by eating beef products contaminated with BSE ('mad cow disease'). There are indications that hereditary factors also play a role in developing the disease.

United Kingdom

Most vCJD cases to date have occurred in the United Kingdom. Cases have also been found in continental Europe. Transmission of variant CJD via blood transfusion has occurred in humans. Therefore, we have applied the following measure. Persons who spent a total of six months or more in the United Kingdom between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996 cannot be blood donors.

The United Kingdom includes: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Island and the Isle of Man. This measure applies if you lived there, but also if you were there temporarily, for example during holidays, weekend trips and business trips. If your stays there total six months (26 weeks) or more, you cannot give blood.

Blood transfusion after January 1st 1980

Additionally, as a precaution, everyone who received a blood donation after 1 January 1980 is banned from becoming a donor. This is to prevent the possibility of a contamination chain in which the disease would be transmitted from person to person via a blood transfusion.

Why don’t we simply test your blood?

Unfortunately, there is currently no test available to identify variant CJD in blood. Extensive research is being conducted to create such a test. In Europe, a test is used to track down BSE in slaughtered cattle, but this test is not suitable for testing blood.