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Blood Li​nes

September 11, 2008 By:
Ben G. Frank, JE Feature
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While many area residents are getting in their last licks at the Jersey shore, or enjoying a frolic in parks or traveling overseas, a constant battle is being raged right now, not only to maintain the blood supply in the Philadelphia-New Jersey region, but to make sure there is no contamination in the blood that is donated.

And if there is a shortage, officials obviously will want to make sure that imported blood does not contain any harmful bacteria or virus.

This is especially important since the New York Times has reported that the American Red Cross "has been under a federal court order to improve the way it collects and processes blood."

Enter the INTERCEPT Blood System, a new approach to blood safety designed to reduce the risks from bacteria, viruses and parasites, as well as harmful leukocytes in donated blood components.

According to Laurence Corash, M.D., chief medical officer of Cerus Corp., a biotech company, "INTERCEPT is a technology that does not depend on knowledge of what is in the public blood supply, but a technology that inactivates a very broad spectrum of viruses, bacteria and parasites."

He stresses that the company is the first pathogen inactivation system approved in Europe to treat platelets for transfusions. The same technology is applicable to therapeutic plasma for transfusion.

Right now, INTERCEPT is not approved in the U.S., though Cerus is working with the Federal Drug Administration to determine an approval path for this technology, said Corash.

Dr. Richard J. Benjamin, chief medical officer of the American Red Cross, National Headquarters, in Washington, D.C., said he is strongly in favor of developing any technology that proactively favors eliminating impurities.

"We have done a good job in [ridding blood of] HIV, hepatitis and a number of infectious disease," declared Benjamin.

Although the Times said that "problems persist with Red Cross blood services," it added: "The Red Cross does a good job of testing HIV and hepatitis B, officials on all sides agree. And in general, Red Cross blood is regarded as some of the safest in the world."

The article said that "The Red Cross, which controls 43 percent of the nation's blood supply, agrees that it has had quality-control problems and is working to fix them. Both its officials and the drug agency point out that none of the identified problems involve the most serious category of infractions."

Problems in Puerto Rico

Still there is some disagreement as to the source of imported blood in Philadelphia. Corash said that he was told by highly reliable sources that Penn-New Jersey American Red Cross was obtaining "red blood cell concentrates from donors in Puerto Rico where Dengue fever has been found in the blood supply."

Kristy DuMond, media and public relations manager of the American Red Cross, Penn-Jersey Blood Services Region, maintains that if blood is imported to Philadelphia, it comes from the Midwest.

 

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