Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > Report: Tainted Blood Platelets Pose Greater Risk than HIV-Infected Blood Products

Report: Tainted Blood Platelets Pose Greater Risk than HIV-Infected Blood Products

Posted 01 August 2012 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

There's a new top threat to the safety of the nation's blood supply. 

The Wall Street Journal reports donated blood products containing bacterially contaminated blood platelets have usurped HIV for the status of the most potent threat to patients. Contaminated variants of platelets, which are used to clot blood, have been blamed in nearly two dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries in recent years.

While testing is available to screen donated blood for contaminated platelets, there are two significant barriers: cost and sensitivity.

The Journal explains the tests cost between $25 and $30 each to conduct, or 5% of the $540 average cost of a unit of platelets. But even beyond cost, the sensitivity of the test has the potential to introduce "significant complexity" into the process of transfusions, and some doctors have found the most recent iterations of the tests to be complex and difficult to comprehend.

These factors could be hurting consumers more than HIV, reports The Journal.

While the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the HIV virus is only found in approximately one in 1.5 million blood products, a study of four million platelet products found 381 suspected septic reactions and 38 definite probable or definite cases and at least four deaths related to bacterial contamination-rates far and above the risks associated with HIV contamination.

Now the onus of action may be falling on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as congressional investigators call for a reassessment of testing requirements for blood platelet products and whether recently approved and more costly testing should be made mandatory in light of its potential to save lives.


Read more:

WSJ - The Biggest Blood Supply Risk: Tainted Platelets

WSJ - Cutting the Risk of Tainted Platelets


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