Pre-surgical risk assessment for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) risk in neurosurgery and eye surgery units
Hospitals should already be using a questionnaire in Annex J of the ACDP TSE Working Group Infection Control guidance to find out whether any patients who are about to undergo any surgery or endoscopy may be at increased risk of being infected with CJD. If a patient is found to have an increased risk of CJD prior to their surgery or endoscopy then special infection control precautions may need to be taken.
Annex J of the TSE Infection Control guidance has recently been revised, and now advises that patients who are due to have high risk surgery  or neuro-endoscopy should be asked an additional question: whether they have received transfusions of blood or blood components from 80 or more donors since 1980. This is because these patients may have an increased risk of being infected with variant CJD (vCJD).
On 16 July 2009 the HPA wrote to the chief executives of NHS trusts asking them to ensure that the guidance is implemented. Detailed information and tools for implementing the guidance can be downloaded from the links below.
If you have any queries about the implementation of the guidance, please contact the HPA Centre for Infections CJD Section at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 8327 6074/6411.
Background information on this new pre-surgical assessment is contained in this Letter to chief executives - July 2009 (PDF, 73 KB) written to all hospitals in England.
The new version of Annex J of the TSE Infection Control Guidance contains new question for patients undergoing high risk surgery and neuro-endoscopy. These questions should be used to assess patients' CJD risk factors.
Clinicians carrying out the new pre-surgical assessment should read Pre-surgical assessment Information for healthcare staff - July 2009 (PDF, 163 KB) This vCJD Algorithm for per-surgical roles - July 2009 (PDF, 28 KB) shows suggested roles and responsibilities for infection control teams, surgical teams and blood transfusion specialists.
Information on patients' transfusion histories should be collected using the Highly transfused vCJD risk assessment form - July 2009 (Word Document, 328 KB) This form is also available as a vCJD risk assessment spreadsheet - July 2009 (Excel Spreadsheet, 2.7 MB). This may help calculate the number of blood donors to a patient. The form may be posted or emailed to the HPA Centre for Infections CJD Section email@example.com.
Blood transfusion laboratories may wish to use this draft Letter to other blood laboratories - July 2009 (Word Document, 31 KB) when collecting transfusion information from other hospitals.
Pre-surgical assessment teams and patients may wish to read this vCJD Information for presurgical patients - July 2009 (PDF, 29 KB) about this new pre-surgical assessment.
 High risk surgery is defined as surgery involving any of the following organs or tissues (high risk tissues): brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves (specifically the entire optic nerve and only the intercranial components of the other cranial nerves), cranial nerve ganglia, posterior eye (specifically the posterior hyaloid face, retina, retinal pigment epithelium, choroid, subretinal fluid, optic nerve) and pituitary gland.
Letter to chief executives - July 2009 (PDF, 73 KB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
Pre-surgical assessment Information for healthcare staff - July 2009 (PDF, 163 KB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
vCJD Algorithm for per-surgical roles - July 2009 (PDF, 28 KB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
Highly transfused vCJD risk assessment form - July 2009 (Word Document, 328 KB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
Letter to other blood laboratories - July 2009 (Word Document, 31 KB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
vCJD Information for presurgical patients - July 2009 (PDF, 29 KB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
vCJD risk assessment spreadsheet - July 2009 (Excel Spreadsheet, 2.7 MB) Added/updated: 16 July 2009
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see also ;
Friday, July 17, 2009
Revision to pre-surgical assessment of risk for vCJD in neurosurgery and eye surgery units Volume 3 No 28; 17 July 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Latest results of HPA study on vCJD-related abnormal prion proteins in extracted tonsil
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tonometer disinfection practice in the United Kingdom: A national survey
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Risk factors for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Risk factors for sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
Monday, December 31, 2007
Risk Assessment of Transmission of Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in Endodontic Practice in Absence of Adequate Prion Inactivation
Eye procedure raises CJD concerns
November 19, 2004 United Press International by STEVE MITCHELL
A New York man who died from a rare brain disorder similar to mad cow disease in May underwent an eye procedure prior to his death that raises concerns about the possibility of transmitting the fatal disease to others, United Press International has learned. The development comes on the heels of the announcement Thursday by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials of a possible second case of mad cow disease in U.S. herds.
Richard Da Silva, 58, of Orange County, N.Y., died from Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, an incurable brain-wasting illness that strikes about one person per million.
Richard's wife Ann Marie Da Silva told UPI he underwent a check for the eye disease glaucoma in 2003, approximately a year before his death. The procedure involves the use of a tonometer, which contacts the cornea -- an eye tissue that can contain prions, the infectious agent thought to cause CJD.
Ann Marie's concern is that others who had the tonometer used on them could have gotten infected.
A 2003 study by British researchers suggests her concerns may be justified. A team led by J.W. Ironside from the National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Surveillance Unit at the University of Edinburgh examined tonometer heads and found they can retain cornea tissue that could infect other people -- even after cleaning and decontaminating the instrument.
"Retained corneal epithelial cells, following the standard decontamination routine of tonometer prisms, may represent potential prion infectivity," the researchers wrote in the British Journal of Ophthalmology last year. "Once the infectious agent is on the cornea, it could theoretically infect the brain."
Prions, misfolded proteins thought to be the cause of mad cow, CJD and similar diseases, are notoriously difficult to destroy and are capable of withstanding most sterilization procedures.
Laura Manuelidis, an expert on these diseases and section chief of surgery in the neuropathology department at Yale University, agreed with the British researchers that tonometers represent a potential risk of passing CJD to other people.
Manuelidis told UPI she has been voicing her concern about the risks of corneas since 1977 when her own study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed the eye tissue, if infected, could transmit CJD.
At the time the procedure was done on Richard Da Silva, about a year before he died, she said it was "absolutely" possible he was infectious.
The CJD Incidents Panel, a body of experts set up by the U.K. Department of Health, noted in a 2001 report that procedures involving the cornea are considered medium risk for transmitting CJD. The first two patients who have a contaminated eye instrument used on them have the highest risk of contracting the disease, the panel said.
In 1999, the U.K. Department of Health banned opticians from reusing equipment that came in contact with patients' eyes out of concern it could result in the transmission of variant CJD, the form of the disease humans can contract from consuming infected beef products.
Richard Da Silva was associated with a cluster of five other cases of CJD in southern New York that raised concerns about vCJD.
None of the cases have been determined to stem from mad cow disease, but concerns about the cattle illness in the United States could increase in light of the USDA announcement Thursday that a cow tested positive on initial tests for the disease. If confirmed, this would be the second U.S. case of the illness; the first was detected in a Washington cow last December. The USDA said the suspect animal disclosed Thursday did not enter the food chain. The USDA did not release further details about the cow, but said results from further lab tests to confirm the initial tests were expected within seven days.
Ann Marie Da Silva said she informed the New York Health Department and later the eye doctor who performed the procedure about her husband's illness and her concerns about the risk of transmitting CJD via the tonometer.
The optometrist -- whom she declined to name because she did not want to jeopardize his career -- "didn't even know what this disease was," she said.
"He said the health department never called him and I called them (the health department) back and they didn't seem concerned about it," she added. "I just kept getting angrier and angrier when I felt I was being dismissed."
She said the state health department "seems to have an attitude of don't ask, don't tell" about CJD.
"There's a stigma attached to it," she said. "Is it because they're so afraid the public will panic? I don't know, but I don't think that the answer is to push things under the rug."
New York State Department of Health spokeswoman Claire Pospisil told UPI she would look into whether the agency was concerned about the possibility of transmitting CJD via tonometers, but she had not called back prior to story publication.
Disposable tonometers are readily available and could avoid the risk of transmitting the disease, Ironside and colleagues noted in their study. Ann Marie Da Silva said she asked the optometrist whether he used disposable tonometers and "he said 'No, it's a reusable one.'"
Ironside's team also noted other ophthalmic instruments come into contact with the cornea and could represent a source of infection as they are either difficult to decontaminate or cannot withstand the harsh procedures necessary to inactivate prions. These include corneal burrs, diagnostic and therapeutic contact lenses and other coated lenses.
Terry Singletary, whose mother died from a type of CJD called Heidenhain Variant, told UPI health officials were not doing enough to prevent people from being infected by contaminated medical equipment.
"They've got to start taking this disease seriously and they simply aren't doing it," said Singletary, who is a member of CJD Watch and CJD Voice -- advocacy groups for CJD patients and their families.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokeswoman Christine Pearson did not return a phone call from UPI seeking comment. The agency's Web site states the eye is one of three tissues, along with the brain and spinal cord, that are considered to have "high infectivity."
The Web site said more than 250 people worldwide have contracted CJD through contaminated surgical instruments and tissue transplants. This includes as many as four who were infected by corneal grafts. The agency noted no such cases have been reported since 1976, when sterilization procedures were instituted in healthcare facilities.
Ironside and colleagues noted in their study, however, many disinfection procedures used on optical instruments, such as tonometers, fail. They wrote their finding of cornea tissue on tonometers indicates that "no current cleaning and disinfection strategy is fully effective."
Singletary said CDC's assertion that no CJD cases from infected equipment or tissues have been detected since 1976 is misleading.
"They have absolutely no idea" whether any cases have occurred in this manner, he said, because CJD cases often aren't investigated and the agency has not required physicians nationwide report all casesof CJD.
"There's no national surveillance unit for CJD in the United States; people are dying who aren't autopsied, the CDC has no way of knowing" whether people have been infected via infected equipment or tissues, he said.
Ann Marie Da Silva said she has contacted several members of her state's congressional delegation about her concerns, including Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
"Basically, what I want is to be a positive force in this, but I also want more of a dialogue going on with the public and the health department," she said.
Cadaver corneal transplants -- without family permission
Houston, Texas channel 11 news 28 Nov 99
Reported by Terry S. Singeltary Sr.son of CJD victim
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Transgenic mice expressing porcine prion protein resistant to classical scrapie but susceptible to sheep bovine spongiform encephalopathy and atypical scrapie. Emerg Infect Dis. 2009 Aug; [Epub ahead of print]
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Nor98 scrapie identified in the United States J Vet Diagn Invest 21:454-463 (2009)
Monday, July 06, 2009
Prion infectivity in fat of deer with Chronic Wasting Disease
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Monitoring the occurrence of emerging forms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United States 2003 revisited 2009
Meeting of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Committee On June 12, 2009 (TRANSCRIPT)
Meeting of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies Committee On June 12, 2009 (Singeltary submission)