Objectives: To quantify the risk of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) among cornea donors, evaluate supplemental screening strategies, and address concerns about the adequacy of current methods of screening tissue donors in the United States. Methods: Reported data on deaths due to CJD and from all causes were used to estimate the rate of CJD among cornea donors. The impact of increased screening on risk of CJD and donor supply was evaluated. Results: Only 1.3 of the approximately 45000 cornea donors in the United States each year might be expected to have CJD. Most of the estimated risk (91%) is due to preclinical (asymptomatic) disease and therefore could not be eliminated by screening for signs or symptoms. If only the highest-risk age group (60 to 69 years) were screened and specificity were 90%, more than 21000 otherwise acceptable donors would incorrectly be excluded over a period of 17.5 years to correctly exclude a single donor with symptomatic CJD. Conclusions: Currently, the risk of CJD transmission following cornea transplantation is remarkably low. Screening for symptoms of CJD would have minimal impact on safety, but would reduce donor supply and likely result in many patients not receiving needed treatment.
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