Tests Making Blood Supply Safer


Wednesday, July 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


ATLANTA (AP) — New genetic tests have made the nation's blood supply safer, allowing donation banks to detect viral infections sooner and keep them from slipping into transfusions, scientists said Tuesday.

Dr. Michael Busch of Blood Centers of the Pacific said nucleic acid testing, which can detect tiny amounts of viruses like HIV and hepatitis C even before the body recognizes them, has stopped a significant number of infections.

Traditional testing has depended on antibodies that the immune system develops to fight the virus, but those reactions can take up to 80 days.

Nucleic acid testing, or NAT, has cut that window down to less than 20 days, Busch reported Tuesday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Busch said the American Red Cross used NAT to screen 7.7 million blood donations from March 1999, when the procedure was introduced, through last month. He said the testing found one HIV infection and 25 hepatitis C infections — each of which could have been passed to up to three patients by transfusion.

Other blood banks used the process to screen about 9 million donations, finding three HIV infections and more than 35 hepatitis C infections, he said.

The Food and Drug Administration is strongly encouraging blood banks to use genetic testing and hospitals to exclusively use NAT-screened blood.

Scientists hope NAT will eliminate the few cases of HIV annually caused by donated blood and prevent most annual cases of hepatitis C transmission through blood.

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On the Net:

Conference site: http://www.cdc.gov/iceid