A medical breakthrough that prevents the spread of the human form of mad cow disease via blood transfusions may be denied to NHS patients because it costs too much.
More than 60 adults having surgery have received blood free of the risk of variant CJD in trials overseen by the National Blood and Transplant Authority.
The advance centres on a filter that can remove the rogue vCJD protein, called a prion, from blood in just 30 minutes - eliminating the patient’s risk of catching the brain disease.
The filter could restore faith in British blood supplies which are proven to be tainted with vCJD after several deaths related to transfusions.
But documents reveal it has been branded ‘not cost-effective’ and experts warn it will double the price of producing red blood cells, leaving a bill for an extra £100million.
Donors who do not realise they are carrying the disease, which can have an incubation period of up to 50 years before showing symptoms, risk passing on vCJD when they give blood. It is feared as many as one in 4,000 could be carriers. There is no reliable way of testing stored blood to see if it is infected.
The filter simply clips on to the blood collection bag and red cells are slowly dripped through it into an empty bag underneath. Any prions are captured in a mesh containing resins that are designed to ‘attract’ amino acids found on the surface of vCJD proteins.
Animal studies have proved it prevents transmission of the deadly disease through blood transfusions.