At a hearing in Parliament last Wednesday, the Science and Technology Committee was told that vCJD continued to pose a "significant" risk to UK public health and that more than one in every 2000 people could be silent carriers of the disease. vCJD can have an incubation period of over 30 years.
Leading scientific experts told the Committee that the infectious agent responsible for vCJD—a type of abnormal protein called a prion—could be present in the UK blood supply and that blood and organ donation could therefore represent a major source of future vCJD infections.
Following this session, the Science and Technology Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into blood, tissue and organ screening.
Chair of the Committee Andrew Miller MP stated:
"Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is a terrible condition and we were extremely concerned to hear evidence that this incurable disease still poses a significant risk to public health.
Although the risk of developing the disease as a result of eating contaminated beef was long ago eliminated, it is possible that the infection could still be unwittingly spread through medical procedures. We were told that this may happen through failure to properly clean medical instruments, or, even more worryingly, through widespread contamination of the blood and organ supply.
We want to explore whether the Government is taking this threat as seriously as it should be. Our new inquiry will investigate these issues in more detail and consider ways in which the UK can protect its vital supply of donated blood, tissues and organs."
The new inquiry follows on from a one-off evidence session that took place on Wednesday 27 November.
Terms of Reference
The Committee is seeking written submissions on the following matters:
- Are UK policies governing who can donate blood and blood products, tissues and organs sufficiently evidence-based? Is NHS Blood and Transplant overly restrictive about who can donate, or should greater precautions be taken to further reduce risk?
- Is the Government and its scientific advisory structure sufficiently responsive to the threat posed by emerging diseases being transmitted through blood and blood products, tissues and organs?
- Has the threat of ongoing transmission of vCJD through the blood and blood product supply been adequately mitigated?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of NHS Blood and Transplant’s strategy, "Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020"? What further changes could be made to safely increase the supply of blood and blood products, tissues and organs?
- What lessons could be learnt from the screening and donation practices of other countries?
Submitting written evidence
The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing. The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act. We may also ask you to comment on the process of submitting evidence via the web portal so that we can look to make improvements. If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information or do not wish your details to be used for the purpose of collecting feedback, please email the Committee providing your full name, address, and if relevant your organisation.
The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by midday on Wednesday 15 January 2014.
Each submission should:
- be no more than 3,000 words in length
- be in Word format with as little use of logos as possible
- have numbered paragraphs
- include a declaration of interests.
If you need to send a paper copy please send it to:
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
14 Tothill Street
Please note that:
- Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
- Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.
- Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
- Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.