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Health: Contaminated Blood Products

House of Lords written question – answered on 24th January 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Baroness Campbell of Surbiton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the United Kingdom has a secure blood supply that is free from both known and unknown pathogens.

Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

The United Kingdom blood services must comply with the Blood Safety and Quality Regulation (2005), as amended. The principal measure to protect patients against transfusion-transmitted infections is the careful selection of blood donors, supplemented by specific testing for transfusion-transmitted infections.

There are well established systems in place within the UK blood services to identify, assess and respond to threats to the UK blood supply posed by known and emerging pathogens that may be transmitted by transfusion. The independent expert Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs and the National Expert Panel on New and Emerging Infections also monitor developments nationally and internationally, and provide advice to the department and to the blood services.

A number of safety measures are in place to reduce the risk of transmission of variant Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) as there is no specific test available for screening of donors. These include lifetime deferral from donation by people who have been advised they may be at increased risk from vCJD and by those previously transfused; leucodepletion of all donated blood; the use of non-UK plasma for production of plasma products such as clotting factors; and importation of fresh frozen plasma for treatment of children under 16.

The introduction of bacterial screening of platelets provides an additional safety measure for these products.

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