Recipients of donated eye tissues, such as those undergoing corneal transplant, may be at increased risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or CJD (also called "mad cow disease"), suggests new evidence.
In a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association (1999; 282: 2211), Drs Dwight Cavanagh and R Nick Hogan of the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas, suggest that potential recipients should be wary. Two recent cases of possible transmission have been reported in Germany and Japan.
The doctors also site a recent case in Britain, where the cornea and sclera of a 53 year old woman who, it was presumed, died of lung cancer, were transplanted into three recipients.
Examination of the donor's brain tissue subsequently revealed the presence of CJD, and the transplanted tissues had to be removed from the recipients.
Such transmission is rare, and screening for such diseases in the organs donated to eye banks has become more comprehensive in recent years. Nevertheless, it remains a risk worth considering before opting for surgery.