Breakthroughs lead to better understanding in prevention of transfusion-transmitted infection

(SAN DIEGO, Calif., December 8, 2003) While the nation's blood supply is safe overall and there is a relatively small likelihood that transfusion recipients will acquire a transmitted disease, there are still risks involved when transferring one person's blood into another. The advent of new diseases, such as West Nile Virus (WNV), increases the need for further clinical vigilance and improved screening methods.

The blood supply is currently inspected in minipools with nucleic acid testing for HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV) and WNV, but there is now a movement toward screening individual blood donations with such examinations. Additionally, researchers are learning more about reducing the risk of transferring specific diseases that may not affect healthy individuals but may seriously hurt immunocompromised patients, who often receive donated blood. Several studies of this nature are being presented during the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

"Modern medicine has contributed exponentially to the quality of medical care and has provided us with the opportunity to conduct successful blood transmissions to save millions of lives every year," said Stanley Schrier, M.D., President-Elect of the American Society of Hematology and Active Emeritus Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology at Stanford University School of Medicine. "However, it remains duly important that we not compromise our patients' overall well-being while trying to improve their situation."

Yield of West Nile Virus RNA Screening of U.S. Blood Donors (Abstract 190)

West Nile Virus (WNV) has spread rapidly in the United States over the past four years. In 2002, hospitals documented the first cases of WNV linked to blood transfusions, leading to an intense effort to develop and implement a screening program. Researchers from Blood Systems Laboratories, Tempe, Ariz., have introduced nuc

Contact: Aimee Frank
American Society of Hematology

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