The Safety of the Blood Supply

Indiana Blood Center has two, full-time pathologists on staff, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Dan Waxman, M.D. and Associate Medical Director, Dr. Julie Cruz. The two professionals find it imperative that Indiana Blood Center’s donors are aware of the safety of the blood supply.

The United States blood supply is collected exclusively from volunteer donors. Before 1985, these donations were only tested for syphilis and hepatitis B. During that time, blood could be collected from donors in the morning, tested in the afternoon, and provided to the hospitals in the evening.

“Over the last 25 years, the number of infectious disease screening tests has expanded from 2 to 11.”

Blood components are now tested for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, HIV I/II, HTLV-I/II, West Nile Virus and T. Cruzi (Chagas). Platelets also undergo testing to detect bacterial contamination. Assays are performed on platforms which detect antigen, antibody or nucleic acids.

Due to increased complexity, in 2011 donations drawn today are tested overnight and not available for distribution to hospitals until the next day.

Advances in testing have resulted in a dramatic decrease in transfusion-transmitted infections. The “window period” for an infectious disease is the time interval from when an infection is acquired to the time it is detectable by a positive screening test. With the advent of nucleic acid testing, this window has decreased to as few as 11 days for HIV and 25 days for hepatitis C.

The result for the patient is markedly reduced risk of acquiring HIV or hepatitis C from a blood component – now less than 1 in 2,000,000 transfused components.

Thank you doctors for sharing with us your wealth of knowledge. We look forward to hearing from you again!

Stay tuned for the next Doctors Digest by following @indianablood on Twitter or become a fan of Indiana Blood Center on facebook.

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