Bacterial Detection of Platelets: Current Problems and Possible Resolutions
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The greatest transfusion-transmitted disease risk facing a transfusion recipient is that of bacterial sepsis. The prevalence of bacterial contamination in platelets and red blood cells is approximately 1 in 3,000 units transfused. The available data indicate that transfusion-associated sepsis develops after 1 in 25,000 platelet transfusions and 1 in 250,000 red blood cell transfusions. One of the most widely used strategies for decreasing bacterial sepsis risk is bacterial detection. A roundtable meeting of experts was convened during the XXVIII Annual Congress of the International Society of Blood Transfusion (Edinburgh, UK, July 2004) to provide a forum for experts to share their experiences in the routine bacterial detection of platelet products. This article summarizes the presentations, discussions, and recommendations of the panel. The data presented indicate that some of the current bacterial screening technology is useful for blocking the issuance of platelet units that contain relatively high levels of contaminating bacteria. Platelet units are usually released based on a test-negative status, which often become test-positive only upon longer storage. These data thus suggest that bacterial screening may not prevent all transfusion-transmitted bacterial infections. Two transfusion-transmitted case reports further highlighted the limitation of the routine bacterial screening of platelet products. It was felt that newer technologies, such as pathogen inactivation, may represent a more reliable process, with a higher level of safety. The panel thus recommended that the Transfusion Medicine community may need to change its thinking (paradigm) about bacterial detection, toward the possibility of the pathogen inactivation of blood products, to deal with the bacterial contamination issue. It was suggested, where permitted by regulatory agencies, that blood centers should consider adopting first-generation pathogen inactivation systems as a more effective approach to reducing the risk of transfusion-associated sepsis than some of the approaches currently available.