Blood donation would carry the risk of infection if a subset of ME/CFS patients were found to have an infectious disease cause, see Infectious disease hypothesis. Margaret Williams has written about this subject.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) advise that blood donars are assessed on the following criteria (https://aprescriptionforme.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/can-people-with-m-e-give-blood-and-organs/):
- Whether the donor is safe to give blood because of a medical condition which may be worsened by the act of giving blood. M.E. patients may not be able to compensate for the rapid removal of 15% of their blood volume, including iron, from their circulatory system. Healthy individuals are not normally affected by giving blood.
- Whether the blood donated is safe for transfusion for the recipient.
- Whether components such as haemoglobin and clotting factors in the donor’s blood are of a suitable quality for the blood product.
The reason people with M.E. can’t give blood is for the first reason; that it may affect our M.E. in that it could cause a worsening of our health if we are currently unwell, or a relapse if our health has improved. This is also given as the reason in Dr Barnes’ article in Blood and Transplant Matters [Barnes S. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Donor Exclusion. Blood and Transplant Matters 2011;:7.http://www.blood.co.uk/pdf/publications/blood_matters_34.pdf (accessed 18 Jun 2015)]
Blood donation by ME/CFS patients is banned or advised against in some countries:
- United Kingdom: 2010, ME/CFS sufferers permanently deferred from giving blood (NHS, 7 October 2010)
- United States: Patient Joan Irvine wrote to the Centers for Disease Control in early 1992 expressing concern at her belief she had contracted ME/CFS after blood transfusion in 1987 (she committed suicide in 1996). The CDC replied to her stating "However since ongoing research indicates an infectious agent may be involved in some cases of CFS it would seem prudent to refrain from donating blood until this issue is resolved". However a chronic fatigue diagnosis is not explicitly contraindicated for giving blood as per the American Red Cross guidelines.