Failure of bacterial screening to detectStaphylococcus aureus: the English experience of donor follow-up
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Between February 2011 and December 2016, over 1·6 million platelet units, 36% pooled platelets, underwent bacterial screening prior to issue. Contamination rates for apheresis and pooled platelets were 0·02% and 0·07%, respectively. Staphylococcus aureus accounted for 21 contaminations, including four pooled platelets, one confirmed transfusion-transmitted infection (TTI) and three 'near-miss' incidents detected on visual inspection which were negative on screening. We describe follow-up investigations of 16 donors for skin carriage of S. aureus and molecular characterisation of donor and pack isolates. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Units were screened by the BacT/ALERT 3D detection system. Contributing donors were interviewed and consent requested for skin and nasal swabbing. S. aureus isolates were referred for spa gene type and DNA macrorestriction profile to determine identity between carriage strains and packs. RESULTS: Donors of 10 apheresis and two pooled packs screen positive for S. aureus were confirmed as the source of contamination; seven had a history of skin conditions, predominantly eczema; 11 were nasal carriers. The 'near-miss' incidents were associated with apheresis donors, two donors harboured strains indistinguishable from the pack strain. The TTI was due to a screen-negative pooled unit, and a nasal isolate of one donor was indistinguishable from that in the unit. CONCLUSION: Staphylococcus aureus contamination is rare but potentially harmful in platelet units. Donor isolates showed almost universal correspondence in molecular type with pack isolates, thus confirming the source of contamination. The importance of visual inspection of packs prior to transfusion is underlined by the 'near-miss' incidents.
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