The American Red Cross will no longer accept blood from people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome as the U.S. government works to determine if the disorder is tied to a transmissible virus known as XMRV.
About four million Americans donate blood through the Red Cross, which is America’s largest supplier of blood products. Their move comes just a month after UK blood services imposed a similar ban, and reflects an ongoing medical debate over the syndrome, which is marked by extreme fatigue after mental or physical exertion, sleep that fails to refresh, and joint and muscle pain.
“In the interest of patient and donor safety, the American Red Cross will defer indefinitely any donor who reveals during the donor interview that they have been diagnosed” with chronic fatigue syndrome, the group’s statement said. “XMRV infection has been associated in some studies with prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome, but at the present time these disease associations have yet to be confirmed.”
The Red Cross decision goes beyond a June recommendation by the AAB, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks, that blood-collecting organisations use donor education materials to actively discourage potential donors diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, or exclude them based on a negative response to the question, “Are you feeling well today?”
“The Red Cross has implemented the AABB recommendations and has gone further to implement indefinite deferral for donors who reveal a history of a medical diagnosis,” the Red Cross said. “There is currently insufficient data to conclude that XMRV is transmitted through blood transfusion. However, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Task force is conducting research to determine the frequency of the virus in the donor population, whether it is transfusion-transmitted, and whether recipients become infected and develop the disease.”
There is no widely accepted cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, and currently no medicines are approved to treat this condition. More than 1 million Americans have chronic fatigue syndrome.
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