No report of COVID-19 transmission in blood recipients — Experts

CONSENSUS by experts at the Lagos State 2020 World Blood Donor Day was that COVID-19 is not likely to be transmitted through blood transfusion.

Professor Sulaimon Akanmu, speaking at a webinar conference hosted by the Lagos State Blood Transfusion Service, stated that COVID -19 antibodies have been reported in healthy blood donors but it is yet to be proven that viable SARS-COV2 virus is present in the blood.

Akanmu, a professor of haematology and blood transfusion at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) said though the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs) such as HIV and hepatitis is not zero, the risk of coronavirus is not found to be viable and likely to be transmitted through blood transfusion.

“The risk of HIV had reduced from one in every 100 units of blood in 1983 to about one in 1.4million units of blood, but the risk of bacterial infections had remained at one in 2000 units of blood,” he declared.

Professor Akanmu, however, assured that blood from a volunteer non-enumerated donor is 100 times safer than that from paid donors or family donors.

He stated that violation of protocol was a serious challenge to safe donation, including at LUTH, with touts fronting as replacement donors and some blood bank staff acting as agents for touts and the persistent belief that donated blood will not be used for treatment only.

“About 60 to 70 units of blood are discarded due to protocol not being followed,” he added.

Professor Adedoyin Dosunmu, a consultant haematologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, said although an asymptomatic donor has the potential of infecting other blood donors and staff of the blood donor bank, “In China, one in 1200 of stored blood has viral particles on PCR, but not isolated on culture.”

He stated that donors with symptoms of COVID-19 infection that had contact with a confirmed suspected case or who had travelled to areas with cases of the COVID-19 need to defer donation till after 28 years.

Dr Dosunmu said the COVID pandemic had led to a severe shortage of blood units and mitigating the shortage will require encouraging appropriate use of blood and blood products, intensifying donor mobilization as well as increasing donor retention facilities.

Country Director, Safe Blood for Africa Foundation, Mr Idris Saliu, stated that respiratory viruses have never been reported to be transmitted through blood and components and to date there have been no reports of COVID-19 infection in blood recipients.

Mr Saliu said Nigeria must find ways to ensure that blood donations continue uninterrupted and are safe for both the donor and the patients while hospitals and blood banks are to take measures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection.

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