HIV infected blood from BTSB latest in series of controversies


THE disclosure that several patients may have received HIV infected blood from the Blood Transfusion Service Board is the latest in a series of controversies to surround the BTSB. These include:


The infection of women via the anti D immunoglobulin - now the subject of the hepatitis C inquiry - has its genesis in 1970 when the BTSB began making the blood product. On November 8th, 1976, the BTSB began taking plasma from a woman known as patient X for the production of anti D, without her consent. Eleven days later hospital records revealed she was suffering from infective hepatitis, despite an earlier negative test. A number of women, up to 10, were subsequently infected with hepatitis C.

In January 1994 Dr Joan Power, BTSB director in Cork, reported the identification of donors with hepatitis C, with no risk factors other than anti D. The following month the BTSB informed the Department of Health of evidence of a possible link between anti D and hepatitis C.

On February 21st, 1994, the then minister for health, Mr Brendan Howlin, announced a national blood screening programme for women who received the anti D blood product.

The setting up of a compensation tribunal was announced by Minister for Health, Mr Noonan, last December, to compensate all of those who contracted hepatitis C from the use of anti D, whole blood or other blood products.

The tribunal of inquiry, long demanded by those infected with the hepatitis C virus, was finally set up by Mr Noonan on October 8th this year after the death of Mrs Brigid McCole on October 2nd, just five days before a High Court case being taken by her against the State was due to begin.


Research conducted in 1990 into the prevalence of hepatitis C among renal patients revealed a higher prevalence of hepatitis C among kidney transplant and other renal patients in Ireland, than in other European countries.


During the late 1980s a number of haemophiliacs were diagnosed as non hepatitis A and non hepatitis B. The precise nature of the virus, however, was not diagnosed.

In 1990 a test was developed for hepatitis C. Since then 210 haemophiliacs have been diagnosed as having hepatitis C and 103 have tested positive for HIV.