Transfusion-transmissible infections: variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD)

Transfusion-transmissible infections are delayed (>24 hours), non-immunological transfusion reactions.

vCJD is a prion disease that affects the central nervous system. These prion infections are known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

The residual risk of transmission of vCJD by transfusion is possible but not yet reported in Australia. However, in the United Kingdom, there have been a small number of reported cases of putative transfusion transmission since 2004.

There are currently no routine available tests to predict or prevent vCJD from transmission by transfusion. As a precaution, people who have spent a cumulative period of 6 months in the UK between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996 and/or had a transfusion in the UK between 1 January 1980 and the present time are not accepted as blood donors in Australia.

When to suspect vCJD?

Patients can present with fatigue, weight loss, headache, malaise and deficits in higher cortical function.

Usual causes?

vCJD is caused by the same prion that causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or 'Mad Cow Disease' and results from exposure to tainted beef from cattle infected with this BSE causing prion.


Clinically assess patients for neurodegenerative signs and symptoms. Immediately consult with experts.

What to do?

Seek expert advice and notify the Blood Service.