Florida Blood Services Plans To Test Two New Blood Treatment Systems After Two Residents Contracted HIV From DonationsFlorida Blood Services yesterday announced plans to test two different systems to remove bacteria, HIV and other viruses from donated blood, according to FBS Medical Director Dr. German Leparc, the St. Petersburg Times reports. FBS will conduct clinical tests of two different blood-cleansing methods: one uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses and bacteria, while the other uses chemicals to destroy pathogens. The clinical studies will measure the effectiveness and safety of treated platelets, usually given to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and how well treated red blood cells perform after being transfused into patients undergoing open-heart surgery. The clinic will examine if the cleansed blood is as effective as it is without treatment, if the side effects of the cleansed blood are worse than the benefits and if the cleansing procedures can be easily implemented. FBS hopes to begin recruiting patients for the clinical trials by April 2003, according to Leparc. The announcement comes four months after two Tampa Bay-area residents contracted HIV after receiving blood screened by FBS, the Times reports. After separate investigations, both the FDA and the Florida Department of Health found that FBS's blood handling, testing and storage procedures were in compliance with federal and state regulations.
Individual Donor Screening vs. Blood Cleansing
Currently, blood is screened by pooling samples from 16 to 24 donors and testing the pooled blood for bacteria and viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C. If a pathogen is detected, technicians then test each sample until they find the one that is infected. The Times reports that while blood banks would like to test each blood sample individually, the facilities lack the technology to do the screening. "That is the best way of testing, but it's just not feasible at this moment," Dr. James Aubuchon, medical director of the blood bank and transfusion service at Dartmouth Medical School, said. Testing samples individually increases the likelihood of finding HIV and reduces the risk of contracting the virus to an estimated one in three million. However, Aubuchon said, "It's going to take a few more steps, analytical equipment steps, before we can implement single donor testing routinely." The Times reports that the use of blood cleansing systems "appears more likely" as a solution at this point (Allison, St. Petersburg Times, 11/19).