No risk of developing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from blood transfusion

June 29, 2000

Risk of acquiring Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from blood transfusions: systematic review of case-control studies

There is no association between blood transfusion and development of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, according to research in this week's BMJ.

Canadian researchers analysed five studies, involving over 2,000 patients from around the world, to determine the strength of association between history of blood transfusion and development of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Despite the recent increased attention to the possibility of transmission of the disease via blood, all studies showed a trend towards a lower risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in patients who had received a blood transfusion, suggesting a protective effect of transfusion. However, the authors are clear to highlight the limitations of these findings - case-control studies are susceptible to bias, they say, which may account for the apparently "spurious" result.

Yet, despite these limitations, it seems unlikely that blood transfusions contribute towards development of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, say the authors. Similar studies also show a lack of association, while others have not reported any cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease developing in patients who received blood from a donor who was later diagnosed with the disease. This review, conclude the authors, emphasises the importance of having well-designed studies if we are to accurately assess the risk of developing variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from blood transfusion.
[Please Note: The results of this systematic review pertain to the transmissibility of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and should not be generalised to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the form of the disease possibly associated with BSE)]


Kumanan Wilson, Assistant Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Email:


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