FDA Restricts European Blood

WASHINGTON, DC-Advisors for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have voted 10 to 7 to ban blood donors who have spent significant time in Europe. They hope the new restrictions will limit the possibility of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) from entering the American blood supply.

Although researchers are not sure if the human variant of Mad Cow disease can be transmitted through blood, they do not want to take any chances. While many oppose further restrictions, saying current blood shortages are already threatening American health, officials warn the disease could quickly ravage the US if not monitored.

The American Red Cross has also restricted their possibly blood donors, with new rules going into effect in September. Although CJD has not been found in either American humans or cattle, the neurological disorder has killed 100 people in Europe.

There is still nothing certain about this disease, however, it is believed that humans become infected with variant CJD from eating meat that is tainted with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE). BSE is thought to be caused by cows being fed remnants of other animals. Their proteins become confused in the process, causing small holes in their brain, or causing it to become spongiform. This leads to their "madness."

Somehow, this beef hit the market and researchers are reticent to estimate how many Europeans may have eaten tainted meat. The human variant causes similar holes in the brain, leaving the organ looking like a sponge and those infected suffering from five characteristic symptoms: pain in limbs, stiff muscles, loss of memory, inability to communicate, and inability to walk steadily.

FDA officials worry that Americans who have lived in Europe, especially the United Kingdom, may have eaten tainted beef, or received blood transfusions while living abroad.

The new restrictions may cut the possible blood supply by 9%. These will keep any American who has spent six months time cumulatively in Europe from 1980 to today, or three months in Britain, out of the possible pool of blood donors.

Information from www.washingtonpost.com