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Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 12 (2001), Issue 6, Pages 332-336
Adult Infectious Disease Notes

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Infection Control

Lynn Johnston1 and John Conly2

1Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
2Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Microbial and Infectious Diseases, Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance, Calgary Laboratory Services, Division of Microbiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Over the past year, several situations have occurred in Canada in which patients who had recently undergone a surgical procedure were subsequently diagnosed with confirmed or suspected Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). This raised concerns over contamination of surgical instruments: which instruments might have been contaminated from direct exposure to tissues; can instruments become cross-contaminated by exposure to other contaminated instruments; what assessment is necessary to determine cross-contamination; and what should be done with instruments that have been contaminated. Additionally, should there be a patient traceback in the face of potential but unproven exposure? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to most of the above questions. Australia, the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization have developed guidelines for the infection control management of patients with CJD, as well as instruments and devices that come into contact with them and their tissues (1-3). Health Canada's draft CJD infection control guidelines, withdrawn from the Health Canada Web site until safety concerns regarding sodium hydroxide can be addressed, closely mirrored recommendations made in those documents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for CJD are under revision. However, a recent American publication made recommendations on what procedures should be used for reprocessing items that have been in contact with the prion protein (PrP) (4). These recommendations differ substantially from the draft Canadian guidelines. This article reviews current knowledge about CJD, and highlights some of the infection control concerns and controversies.