Healthy living

ME patients banned from donating blood

ME patients to be banned from donating blood New guidelines

People with myalgic encephalitis (ME) will be banned from giving blood in the UK from November 1, the NHS has confirmed.

Around a quarter of a million people in the UK suffer from ME, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The debilitating symptoms usually include severe fatigue, tiredness, muscle pain and aching joints.

Previously, patients with a history of ME could donate blood when their condition was in remission and they felt well.

NHS officials say the latest guidelines have been introduced to protect the health of ME blood donors so their condition is not made worse by giving blood, and brings ME/CFS into line with other relapsing neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease.

Virus link

However, the ME Association has suggested there may be another reason for the ban.

Although the cause of ME is unknown, a group of US scientists recently detected genetic material from xenotropic murine leukaemia virus (XMLV) in the blood of two thirds of patients diagnosed with CFS. The same virus was also found in just four per cent of healthy people. But other scientists have been unable to replicate the results.

The American Association of Blood Banks has already issued a similar ban on blood donations from ME patients, to assess the risk posed by XMLV.

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, told the BBC: "In the current state of uncertainty about a possible viral link a ban is a perfectly sensible measure to take in case it is caused by a retrovirus."

"Although people with ME often want to donate blood, they make up a small number of the many thousands of donations the NHS receives each year."

This article was published on Fri 8 October 2010

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