Viaspan is a liquid used to keep the liver, pancreas and bowel as they are transported across the country. But now tests have found the bacteria Bacillus cereus in the solution used to test the sterility of viaspan, and tests are now underway to see if the bacteria has got into the viaspan itself.
Bacillus cereus causes diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps, but an antibiotic can be prescribed to stop the effects. In the meantime, doctors have been told to continue using viaspan until an alternative is found, and no transplant centres have thus far reported any of the above.
Every year in the UK there are around 800 liver, 250 pancreas and 40 bowel transplants. There are reports of the bacterium being present back to July 2011, meaning potentially hundreds of people affected.
Worldwide production of viaspan has stopped in the interim, and an international recall order has been issued.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said, "Our priority is to ensure patients are safe. There is currently no evidence of any problems in patients who have recently had transplants where viaspan has been used.
"If we were to recall the product immediately it is clear that patients would suffer and some may die."