Eye op instruments 'could cause vcjd infection'

Eye op instruments 'could cause vcjd infection'

July 20, 2001 PA News by Vik Iyer

Surgical instruments used for certain eye operations could pose a risk of infecting people with the human form of mad cow disease infection, it emerged today.

New highly sensitive analysis shows that protein infected with vCJD - variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - exists in the retina and optic nerve of infected patients.

The discovery was made by a team from the Imperial College School of Medicine, London, and was reported in medical journal, The Lancet.

It could prompt the drawing up of new models of risk management to prevent the further spread of vCJD.

John Collinge, one of the scientists from the MRC Prion Unit, said: "Ophthalmic surgical instruments used in procedures involving the optic nerve and the posterior segment of the eye, in particular the retina, might represent a potential risk for iatrogenic transmission of vCJD."

The scientists obtained tissue from the post mortem examinations on four patients who had the disease.

Analysis showed that infected protein was "readily detected" in the retina and optic nerve at levels of between 2.5% and 25% of those found in the brain.

Diseased prion protein was also found in the tonsil and spleen.

Mr Collinge added: "Rectal and other gastrointestinal tissue should be further investigated to assess risk of iatrogenic transmission of vCJD."

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