World Blood Donors Day: 'Access to safe blood is essential for every individual'

Every year, June 14, marks World Blood Donors Day, to highlight and encourage voluntary and repeat blood donation to ensure the quality of blood units donated, whilst impressing upon the need to use safe processes and technologies in blood screening to contain the spread of Transfusion Transmitted Infections (TTIs).

Blood transfusion is an important aspect of patient management. Complications in blood transfusion can lead to TTIs like HIV, Hepatitis B (HBV) & Hepatitis C (HCV) etc. further risking the life of the patient receiving blood.

According to a report on 'Blood Safety in Maharashtra and Preventing Transfusion Transmitted Infections', HBV & HIV prevalence in TTIs amongst the donor population in Maharashtra is higher than the national average.

According to a recent NACO report, Maharashtra accounted for 13% of HIV infections due to blood transfusion in 2018-19, with 169 infections.

The panel encouraged the need for voluntary blood donation as it is also a means of reducing/ minimising the risk of TTIs. The discussion also focused on the need for implementing advanced blood screening methods such as NAT testing across blood banks in Maharashtra.

India has approximately 2,500 blood banks, with only 2-3% of them offering NAT testing. Many hospitals/blood banks in the country and the state are yet to establish NAT screening procedures.

Patients in India, which has a shortage of blood reserves for transfusion, are especially susceptible to such infections. During the discussion, NAT was advised as it directly detects the genetic material (RNA & DNA) of the infecting organism or viruses like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

According to Dr Sandeep Sewlikar, Head, Medical and Scientific Affairs, Roche Diagnostics India, said, 'It is the most sensitive technique for detection of infections in donated blood that is currently available across the world. So the window period, a time between when a patient is infected and when tests show a positive result, is shortened. Considering the window period of detection is shorter for NAT, TTIs could be reduced in recipients of NAT-tested blood.'

Dr Atul Kulkarni, Director, Jankalyan Blood Bank, 'Blood transfusions are an essential component of emergency medical care. Adequate blood supply during emergencies requires a well-organised blood transfusion service, which can only be ensured with the collaboration of the entire community and with a donor population committed to voluntary unpaid donations throughout the year.'

'Access to safe and quality blood is essential for every individual, if we are to provide comprehensive health care for all. At Jankalyan, we are honoured to have our records indicate that 111 lives could be saved from TTIs over a 70-month period on account of NAT testing,' Dr Kulkarni added.

Dr Shravan Subramanyam, Managing Director, Roche Diagnostics, said, 'A prerequisite for the effective clinical use of blood is a well-organised blood transfusion service (BTS) that is able to provide blood and blood products that are safe and accessible, and optimum to meet national needs.'

He elaborated, 'At Roche, we recognise the need to enable access for patients in India to globally accepted NAT testing, towards the spread of TTIs, by detecting window period donations. Across the world, 20% of countries mandate NAT testing. The power of diagnostics here is that it continues to protect us with a safe blood supply, allowing patients to focus on treating their other health conditions.'

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