Two Florida Residents Test Positive for HIV After Receiving Tainted Blood Transfusions; FDA, State to Investigate
The FDA and the Florida Department of Health have launched separate investigations into the cases of two individuals in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area who became infected with HIV after receiving tainted blood products, the St. Petersburg Times reports. (Kumar, St. Petersburg Times, 7/20). Florida Blood Services, the Tampa Bay region's primary blood supplier, said on Thursday that it collected blood from a regular donor on May 11. The blood was screened for HIV and other diseases within 24 hours and found to contain signs of HIV. The blood was then retested, and the result was confirmed. Another, "more precise" test was administered during the following week, and the positive test was once more confirmed. The blood was then destroyed, and the donor contacted. The donor provided another blood sample on May 30, and tests again confirmed that the donor had HIV. The blood sample never left the lab, but officials with FBS noted that the donor had given blood regularly at two-month intervals since September. FBS workers examined the company's records, which showed that all of the previous blood samples had tested negative for HIV. They then contacted the six area hospitals that had received blood components from those donations. The hospitals examined their records and identified seven patients who had received blood components from the HIV-positive donor. Those patients were all tested for HIV, and two individuals, both of whom had received components from a March 12 donation, tested HIV-positive. Both individuals were notified last Wednesday, according to FBS medical director Dr. German Leparc.
Donation Made During Latent Period
After examining the donor's blood donation history concluding that they had handled the donations correctly, FBS officials determined that the donor must have been infected with HIV shortly before the March 12 donation. After a person acquires HIV, it can take seven to 10 days for the body to produce antibodies to HIV that are detectable by standard blood tests, the Times reports. More specific RNA tests can detect HIV in the early stages of infection. However, the test is expensive, and current testing practices have reduced the odds of HIV transmission through the blood supply to roughly two million to one, the same odds as being killed by lightening. Leparc encouraged people not to overreact to the news. "We want to make sure people don't link AIDS with donating blood. You absolutely cannot get AIDS from giving blood," he said (Nohlgren, St. Petersburg Times, 7/19).
FDA, State Investigations
The FDA will investigate the procedures that FBS uses to test for tainted blood, and the state health department will determine "how the tainted blood was transmitted" to the two patients and whether other patients face a similar risk. The investigations could include retesting blood from the donor and recipients, contacting the six hospitals and five other recipients of the donor's blood and reviewing FBS records and lab techniques. State health officials have asked FBS for records and blood supply samples and said that the "blood supply is safe and that the risk of contracting HIV this way is extraordinarily rare" (St. Petersburg Times, 7/20). Although FBS concluded that it followed proper protocol in testing the blood donations, the firm had been cited by the FDA on three previous occasions for improper testing procedures, the Times reports. In the late 1990s, FBS received three warning letters from the FDA saying it had improperly performed an HIV test, had not properly documented how it disposed of HIV-positive blood and had not performed a syphilis test correctly. FBS acknowledged the letters, but said the problems had been corrected and that the company was "vigilant" about testing the blood it processes (Kreuger, St. Petersburg Times, 7/19).