Transfusion-transmitted babesiosis: is it time to screen the blood supply?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

This review summarizes the current status of blood screening to prevent transfusion-transmitted babesiosis (TTB).

Recent findings

Babesia microti has recently been determined to be the most common transfusion-transmitted pathogen in the United States. Patients who acquire TTB often experience severe illness with an associated mortality rate of about 20%. Recent studies have demonstrated that laboratory screening using B. microti antibody and/or PCR assays can effectively identify infectious blood donors and that this approach may offer a cost- effective means of intervention. Pathogen inactivation methods may offer an alternative solution. None of these methods has yet been licensed by US Food and Drug Administration, however, and current efforts to prevent TTB rely on excluding blood donors who report having had babesiosis.

Summary

TTB imposes a significant health burden on the United States population. Further research is needed to better inform decisions on optimal screening strategies and reentry criteria, but given the acute need and the currently available screening tools, initiation of blood donor screening to prevent TTB should be given high priority.

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