Pathogen Reduction: The Next Generation of Giving

Sat, 07/30/2016 - 14:23
David Genest Donating Platelets

The U.S. blood supply is among the safest in the world. But in a world where not every harm can be detected -- harms such as the Zika virus and evolving strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria -- how do we protect patients? Part of the answer lies in pathogen reduction, a viral and bacterial inactivation process which the Rhode Island Blood Center (RIBC) will begin performing on platelet donations.

Thanks to advancements in screening and testing over the last several decades, we can greatly reduce HIV and Hepatitis from making it into the blood supply. Pathogen reduction is a more proactive approach and is based on a simple premise: if it doesn't belong there, it's eliminated.
Lawrence Smith, President and CEO of RIBC, says, "This is the next generation of blood product safety that donors can provide for patients. The pathogen reduction process will also reduce potential risks not yet identified."

Pathogen reduction works by blocking the replication process of DNA and RNA in living organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and parasites. Without that process, they can no longer multiply and cause disease. Dr. Carolyn Young, MD, PhD, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of RIBC explains, "The technology works by adding a solution to the platelets after your donation and exposing it to UV light. It eliminates the need for bacterial testing, and prevents the donor’s white blood cells from making more white cells, which also blocks graft versus host disease (rejection of transfusion.)"

Pathogen Reduction UV illuminator
Lab assistant Soraya Rodrigues demonstrates the UV illuminator
used in pathogen reduction.

While technologies that make blood components safer continue to evolve, life-saving blood transfusions are not possible without the most important component of all -- donors. RIBC will need about 1,000 new platelet donors over the next year in order to meet the need for platelets. Eligibility is based primarily on a donor's platelet count, which the blood center staff will determine after your first donation. Please consider coming to one of our six donor centers where platelets can be collected and give just the part of your blood patients need the most. You will be joining the next generation of giving that helps chart a new course for people needing blood transfusions.