THE case of a Ringwood man who died after contracting hepatitis E from a transfusion has been referred to the national inquiry into hundreds of people infected with blood given by the NHS.
Matthew Coghlan, who was likened by his mother to “the little engine that never gave up”, suffered multiple organ failure and died last year three months after being given blood at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, an inquest heard.
The 40-year-old, who was born in South Africa, had a rare inherited bone marrow failure syndrome, a blood disorder which occurs when the marrow does not produce enough new blood cells.
Mr Coghlan was due to undergo a dental procedure, and because he was at high risk of bleeding it was decided to give him a transfusion on the day of the planned extraction on 5th September.
A few weeks later, on 16th October 2019, haematology consultant Dr David Allotey received a letter from NHS Blood and Transplant informing him Mr Coghlan had been given blood from a donor who had subsequently tested positive for hepatitis E, or HEV.
The inquest heard this was “not a laboratory error” as the virus went undetected even though the blood donation had been properly screened for infection.
Dr Harvala, from NHS Blood and Transplant, told the court a later blood sample taken from the same donor had shown HEV contamination.
“When the viral load is lower in blood donations, infection is not detected and blood is deemed safe to give,” she explained.
Assistant coroner Victoria Cook asked Dr Harvala if more “detailed screening” of blood used in transfusions for patients with “complex” medical histories currently takes place.
Dr Harvala said this was “being looked at” as part of the national Infected Blood Inquiry. This was launched in 2017 after thousands were affected by NHS testing failures during the 1970s and 1980s which led to infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.
Mr Coghlan’s mother told the court that despite his health issues, her son never complained. She said: “He was like the little engine that never gave up.
“Matthew was educated in a remedial school for the educationally challenged.
“He was full of stories, he had a great sense of humour, and he always fought for the underdog.”
The court heard Mr Coghlan was tested for hepatitis E on 22nd October, and a positive result came back on 1st November.
His sister Mandy von Buddenbrock questioned why doctors did not begin treatment until her brother was admitted to hospital with acute hepatitis on 21st November. He was suffering from liver and kidney failure.
“Would it have made any significant difference if treatment had started earlier?” she asked.
Dr Al-shamma, consultant hepatologist at Royal Bournemouth Hospital, replied: “I’ve asked myself that same question, and I genuinely do not know the answer to it. I’ve never worked on a case as complicated as Matthew’s.”
The court heard plans were in place to manage Matthew’s condition after the positive result came back, and that there was no evidence of deterioration when he was seen on 6th November.
Dr Al-shamma told Ms Cook that hepatitis E was now known to be “more common than we think”.
“In fact, it is one of the commonest causes of acute viral hepatitis,” he said. “Most people are asymptomatic, but in some people who are immunocompromised, as in the case of Matthew, chronic infection can develop.”
The coroner recorded the cause of death as transfusion-related hepatitis E infection and subsequent multiple organ failure.
The Infected Blood Inquiry is examining the deaths of nearly 3,000 people infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood transfusions in the 1970s and 80s.
At least 4,689 people, many of them haemophiliacs, were infected with contaminated blood products imported from the United States where high-risk donors were paid.