Family welcomes lifting of blood plasma donations ban
Tom Pilgrim, PA
- Credit: NHS Blood and Transplant / PA
An Essex family has welcomed news that donations of blood plasma in England for use in the manufacture of "lifesaving" medicines are to begin again.
The process had been banned for more than two decades after worries over potential links to the "mad cow disease" scare.
Seven-year-old Erin Sadler, from Colchester, has immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) which means her immune system destroys her platelets, stopping her blood from clotting.
Immunoglobulin - antibody-based medicines of which blood plasma is a crucial ingredient - support her immune system to regulate itself to slow the damage.
Erin, who is under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, has a range of other life-limiting conditions and is very ill with heart failure.
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But her mother Helen said: "She is a tornado of energy - she is cheeky and full of life. She loves dancing and singing. She is vulnerable, but she keeps going.
"I am so glad there are plasma and blood donors because I would have lost my little girl a long time ago without their selfless act of donation."
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For an initial three months from Wednesday, April 7, blood plasma donations will be taken at 14 centres across the country - including Chelmsford
Government lifted the ban in February which was imposed on UK donors in 1998 amid concerns about the spread of a human variant of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said around 17,000 people needed immunoglobin therapy in 2018/19 for a range of diseases and genetic disorders.
These included immune disorders such as common variable immune deficiency (CVID) and neurological disorders like Guillain-Barre syndrome and myasthenia gravis.
The medicines are also used to help treat cytopenia, a disorder featuring a low mature red blood cell count which can occur following radiotherapy and chemotherapy for cancer treatment, as well as dermatological disorders like Kawasaki syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis.
Amid a global supply shortage due to rising demand, the UK has previously depended on imports of blood plasma from other countries - mainly the US.
Dr Gail Miflin, chief medical officer for NHSBT, said: "Plasma is made into lifesaving medicines for people with rare diseases.
"There is a growing need for plasma for medicines and a worldwide shortage of donors."
She said a "dedicated plasmapheresis programme" would "greatly increase NHSBT's ability to provide plasma at volume" and reduce the reliance on plasmas from overseas.