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Monday, December 1, 1997 Published at 00:05 GMT


New precautions to combat CJD infection
image: [ This latest incident highlights the dangers of transplanting tissue which is infected with CJD ]
This latest incident highlights the dangers of transplanting tissue which is infected with CJD

The Scottish Health Minister, Sam Galbraith, says further precautions will be introduced after the eyes of a woman who suffered from the human equivalent of mad cow disease were used in transplants.

Tissue from the eyes of Marion Hamilton, who suffered from Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, were used in transplants for three patients.

Mrs Hamilton, 53, from Stirling, died from lung cancer and it only became known that she was suffering from CJD after her eyes had been used.

A post mortem found that she had the human equivalent of BSE but the UK Transplant Support Service (UKTSS), which handled the transplants, was not told for two months.

Her corneas and the whites of her eyes, the sclera, were transplanted into two men and a woman in her 80s.

[ image: Scottish Health Minister Sam Galbraith]
Scottish Health Minister Sam Galbraith
A statement from the Scottish Office said: "We are aware there is a potential infection risk from tissue retrieved from a patient in Scotland.

"We do not know the full facts but we are making urgent inquiries into how this could have occurred."

The case was unveiled by a Scottish newspaper but no further details are being given by the Scottish Office on the grounds of patient confidentiality.

UKTSS administrator Kathryn Burdon told the Sunday Mail: "I don't think there's anything we could have done.

"If we'd known about CJD, we would not have considered organ transplantation."

One of Mrs Hamilton's daughters is quoted in the paper as saying: "I am stunned to learn three people could have been handed a death sentence. I want an urgent probe into this matter."

She said her mother's behaviour had become erratic before her death and said she was staggering and falling over and changing almost overnight to "a senile old lady".

[ image: CJD specialist Dr Stephen Dealer]
CJD specialist Dr Stephen Dealer
Dr Stephen Dealer, a CJD expert at Burnley Hospital, Lancashire, says it is still a very rare disease and he described the transplant as an "unhappy" incident.

But he adds: "I must admit the risk of transfer through a corneal graft is unacceptably high."

Scottish Health Minister Sam Galbraith promising to act to prevent the transplant of CJD infected organs
Dr Stephen Dealer, a CJD expert at Burnley Hospital, Lancashire, talking about the risk of transplants

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Internet Links

Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease Foundation

UK Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit

The Scottish Office Web site

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