A method for reducing pathogens present in whole blood used for transfusions may reduce the incidence of malaria transmission, and also provide clinical support for patients with severe anemia or hemorrhage, according to the results of a prospective study published April 22 in the Lancet.

“This study is the first to show pathogen reduction treatment of whole blood for transfusion resulted in reduced transmission of a blood-borne infectious parasite in a region hyperendemic for malaria,” wrote Dr. Jean-Pierre Allain of the department of hematology at the University of Cambridge (England) and his coauthors.

The investigators examined the safety and efficacy of the Mirasol pathogen reduction technology system in the African Investigation of the Mirasol System ( AIMS ) trial. Between March 12, 2014, and November 7, 2014, 227 adults from Ghana with blood group O+ were admitted to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, and enrolled in this prospective, randomized, parallel-group, double-blind, controlled study of transfusion-transmission of malaria. The patients underwent up to two whole blood transfusions with either pathogen-reduced whole blood (treated), or whole blood prepared and transfused by standard local practice (untreated), within 3 days following randomization. ( Lancet. 2016 Apr 23;387:1753-61 ).

Of the patients completing the study protocol and included in the subsequent primary endpoint analysis, 65 nonparasitemic patients were exposed to parasitemic whole blood (28 treated and 37 untreated) and compared with 99 nonparasitemic control patients who received nonparasitemic whole blood (55 treated and 44 untreated), reported Dr. Allain.

The investigators found that the incidence of transfusion-transmitted malaria was significantly lower for the nonparasitemic patients receiving parasitemic whole blood, than for the nonparasitemic control patients who received nonparasitemic whole blood. Of the 65 patients transfused with parasitemic whole blood, 1 of the 28 treated patients (4%) and 8 of the 37 untreated patients (22%) were found to have contracted transfusion-transmitted malaria. Additionally, the safety profiles of the patients receiving treated or untreated whole blood did not differ and no transfusion-related fatalities occurred.

In developing countries, blood supplies are often contaminated by infectious agents, and blood banking systems cannot afford the newest nucleic acid detection technologies for blood-borne pathogens, the investigators wrote. They suggested that technologies designed to reduce pathogens present in whole blood may be of clinical benefit to both individual patients and health care systems. The use of such methods could result not only in better patient outcomes, but also in greater stability in blood supplies, as well as an associated decrease in treatment costs attributable to reductions in preventable infections.

Funding for this project was provided by Terumo BCT, which produces the Mirasol system. All but one of the coauthors disclosed financial ties to the funding source.


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