Risks associated with red blood cell transfusions: potential benefits from application of pathogen inactivation

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Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion risks could be reduced if a robust technology for pathogen inactivation of RBC (PI-RBCs) were to be approved.


Estimates of per-unit and per-patient aggregate infectious risks for conventional RBCs were calculated; the latter used patient diagnosis as a determinant of estimated lifetime exposure to RBC units. Existing in vitro data for the two technologies under development for producing PI-RBCs and the status of current clinical trials are reviewed.


Minimum and maximum per-unit risk were calculated as 0.0003% (1 in 323,000) and 0.12% (1 in 831), respectively. The minimum estimate is for known lower-risk pathogens while the maximal estimate also includes an emerging infectious agent (EIA) and endemic area Babesia risk. Minimum and maximum per-patient lifetime risks by diagnosis grouping were estimated as 1.5 and 3.3%, respectively, for stem cell transplantation (which includes additional risk for cytomegalovirus transmission); 1.2 and 3.7%, respectively, for myelodysplastic syndrome; and 0.2 and 44%, respectively, for hemoglobinopathy.


There is potential for PI technologies to reduce infectious RBC risk and to provide additional benefits (e.g., prevention of transfusion-associated graft-versus-host disease and possible reduction of alloimmunization) due to white blood cell inactivation. PI-RBCs should be viewed in the context of having a fully PI-treated blood supply, enabling a blood safety paradigm shift from reactive to proactive. Providing insurance against new EIAs. Further, when approved, the use of PI for all components may catalyze operational changes in blood donor screening, laboratory testing, and component manufacturing.

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