News from Hepatitis Week of Feb. 23, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 08

Canada's Only Ear Bank Closed by Worries Over Hepatitis

Shoddy recordkeeping has closed Canada's only ear bank after officials concluded that they could not guarantee that transplant patients receiving tissue were protected from such infectious diseases as hepatitis B and C and HIV.

The British.Columbia. Ear Bank, which is located in St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, suspended operations last October after an employee heard a rumor that ear bank files were incomplete.

Health Canada and Providence Health Care, which operates St. Paul's, revealed the problem only Feb. 19 after months of investigation showed that patients receiving tissue from the ear bank were at risk of getting an infectious disease.

"Due to the incomplete documentation, B.C. Ear Bank is not able to confirm whether proper procedures and screening of donors was conducted to determine that this tissue was safe for transplantation," Carl Roy, Providence president and CEO, told the Toronto Star.

The ear bank serves hospitals and individual doctors across most of Canada. Hospitals and doctors in the U.S. cities of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have also drawn specimens of transplant material from the ear bank.

While the ear bank is the only entity of its kind in Canada devoted to ear tissue, other tissue banks in the country also collect and provide ear bones and membranes for transplants. The ear bank provided the tissues for about 20 per cent of the ear operations in Canada involving transplanted tissue.

Although the chances of a tissue recipient contracting an infectious disease is small, Health Canada is urging anyone who received tissue from the ear bank speak to their doctor to arrange to be tested for those disease.

Other sources: Toronto Star