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Tissue banks must closely screen donors for infectious disease, according to new rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Donated blood and organs have long been closely regulated, but other tissue donations haven't received the same scrutiny.


Tissue banks must check donors for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C, syphilis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Because a specific test for CJD doesn't exist, tissue banks must perform other checks, such as examining the brain of cadaver donors.


Screening includes:


* checking a donor's medical records for recent infections


* asking a living donor, or the relatives of a deceased donor, about risk factors for infection. These questions are similar to those used to screen blood donors.



Additional screening is required in certain cases; for example, people donating sperm or eggs must be screened for sexually transmitted diseases. The FDA may also order additional screening for new diseases, such as West Nile virus, if indicated. Exceptions include tissue that will be reimplanted into the patient and reproductive tissue from a sexual partner used for in vitro fertilization.


Surgeons perform about 1 million tissue transplants a year. Although infections related to transplants are rare, they can be devastating. The potential for disease transmission made headlines in 2002, when a 23-year-old Minnesota man died after receiving infected cartilage during routine knee surgery.