How Safe Is the Nation’s Blood Supply?
Researchers announced thisِ week thatِ the parasite thatِ causesِ babesiosis, a malarialike illness transmitted byِ ticks, isِ passing undetected throughِ theِ nation’s blood supply.
The study foundِ 162 cases ofِ babesiosis acquired throughِ blood transfusions overِ the lastِ three decades.
Does that mean blood transfusions are becoming unsafe?
The blood supply inِ the United States isِ safer thanِ it’sِ everِ been, saidِ Dr.
Matthew Kuehnert, director ofِ Center ofِ Disease Control andِ Preventions’ office ofِ blood organ andِ other tissue safety.
The risk ofِ acquiring anِ infection fromِ a blood transfusion isِ extremely low, Kuehnert andِ other experts say.
Every year aboutِ 5 million people receive blood transfusions, andِ more thanِ 9.5 million donate blood, according toِ theِ CDC.
First, donors areِ asked questions toِ determine ifِ they areِ healthy andِ whether theyِ mightِ beِ atِ risk forِ carrying certainِ blood-borne diseases.
For instance, donors areِ asked ifِ they haveِ recently traveled toِ parts ofِ the world whereِ certainِ parasitic diseases, suchِ asِ malaria, areِ common.
Laboratory tests are also used to screen donated blood for eight infectious diseases.
Lab tests alsoِ screen blood forِ general bacterial contamination andِ can detect aboutِ half theِ types ofِ bacteria thatِ mightِ beِ in a unit ofِ blood, Kuehnert said.
Some ofِ the diseases thatِ cannotِ beِ detected areِ babesiosis, hepatitis A andِ malaria, Kuehnert said.
Then thereِ areِ the diseases weِ don’tِ know aboutِ or haveِ yet toِ emerge.
Any test usedِ toِ screen blood mustِ meet veryِ rigorous performance standards set byِ the Food andِ Drug Administration, Benjamin said.
The Red Cross isِ now working withِ a commercial company thatِ hasِ developed a prototype test forِ babesiosis, thought itِ will likelyِ take twoِ orِ three years toِ beِ approved byِ the FDA, Benjamin said.
In 2010, theِ agency launched theِ Hemovigilance Module toِ collect reports ofِ adverse events inِ patients whoِ receive blood transfusions.