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Programme highlights Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 17:04 GMT
CJD: The surgical threat?
The Government has announced a 200 million programme to improve the sterilisation and decontamination of surgical instruments.

And in the case of tonsil surgery, no instruments will be used more than once. That will cost a further 25 million.

These measures are in line with the recommendations of SEAC, the advisory committee on BSE. Ministers say that there is no evidence that anyone has contracted the human version of the disease, CJD, from surgery.

This move is described as a precaution against a theoretical risk: from studying samples from patients who've died from CJD, it's known that infection can be concentrated in tonsils - possibly before the patient suffers any other symptoms.

But the move will raise questions about whether it would be sensible to have single-use instruments for other - or maybe for all - surgical procedures.

Tonsils: The hidden threat

Professor Peter Smith, acting chairman of SEAC, said tonsils posed a particular risk as they could carry a substantial amount of infected tissue.

Conservatives Health spokesman Dr Liam Fox welcomed this morning's announcement but told said he had other related concerns that he thought the government should be addressing.

He argues blood products could carry CJD, but it is only in Scotland that this factor is being taken into account. As a result haemophiliacs are treated with a manufactured form of blood.

The Health Minister John Denham said the government was acting upon the latest specialist advice from SEAC. Although no-one is known to have contracted CJD from surgical implements, the government would not countenance the posibility of any risk.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Professor Peter Smith
Tonsils can carry infected tissue
Tory health spokesman Dr Liam Fox
Blood may also carry a CJD threat
Health minister John Denham
We are acting on the latest and best advice
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