By Nigel Talboys, director of Global Blood Safety Marketing, Special for USDR
The cost of contaminated blood can be severe. Dengue fever and West Nile virus have snuck through screening processes and were transmitted in blood transfusions. These cases are rare in the U.S., but for those contracting the diseases, they can be very dangerous.
The U.S. has one of the safest blood supplies in the world, where every drop of blood used for a transfusion goes through a rigorous evaluation to protect against the spread of diseases like Malaria, hepatitis and more. However, blood safety isn’t perfect anywhere, and new infectious threats can arise. Additional security measures could stop undetected infectious pathogens before they are transfused to patients.
In the fight against pathogens like Ebola, protecting the public health begins with keeping the blood supply safe and available. While blood centers have elaborate processes in place to do just that, some U.S. healthcare professionals are examining ways to further ensure a safe blood supply.
In the midst of public health concerns over Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) and dengue fever, select blood centers in Florida and Puerto Rico might soon begin using Terumo BCT’s Mirasol® Pathogen Reduction system to continue blood safety.
The Mirasol system applies riboflavin (vitamin B) and ultra-violet (UV) light to a unit of blood to inactivate white blood cells and certain harmful pathogens like CHIKV and dengue fever that other screening methods sometimes overlooked. While the levels of pathogen reduction vary, the Mirasol system is used by more than 70 blood centers in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East.
To allow chosen blood centers use of the Mirasol system, Terumo BCT is responding to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) request and filing an expanded-use exemption treatment protocol proposal. The system is not approved for commercial marketing or distribution in the U.S., so blood centers would use it under an Investigational Device Exemption for unapproved products.
Several millions of successful transfusions happen every year in the U.S. under the watchful eyes of healthcare professionals and the USFDA, but an extra wall of protection from harmful pathogens can make a difference for some patients. Like any preventive healthcare measure, the Mirasol system could save lives and reduce the total treatment expenditure.
Safety and prevention deserve just as much attention as a cure.