Blood safety first

The Hemocentro Nacional in Ecuador recognized as one of the most modern blood centers in Latin America

Hemocentro Nacional, Quito, Ecuador

Pipetting blood samples

Over 92 million blood donations are collected annually from all types of blood donors worldwide.1 Safety of supply is critical for blood product recipients. Yet despite the mandatory requirement for donated blood to be tested for transfusion-transmitted infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2011 that 39 out of 164 countries worldwide – approximately one in four of those examined – had failed to implement routine testing to a uniform standard.2 In some countries, even basic quality assurance remained lacking. Improved compliance with comprehensive blood product safety requirements is therefore crucial given the large numbers of potential donors worldwide living with undiagnosed infections.

Blood screening technologies help blood banks maintain supplies of reliable blood components. However, the availability of safe blood depends on the role that health systems take in segregating high-risk donors and performing appropriate laboratory analyses. In Latin America, the Latin American Red Cross is faced with the second-highest HIV prevalence rate in the world and plays a major role in screening donated blood. The Red Cross programs aim to limit the spread of infectious disease in order to reduce the risk for people in need of donated blood. For this reason, the Latin American Red Cross has installed a number of blood banks and screening centers equipped with the latest technology from Roche.

Blood samples

Blood samples being prepared for testing

Besides Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, Ecuador owns one of the few laboratories in a network of blood screening centers in Latin America. Located in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, the center serves as a national hub and performs serology and immunology testing, blood typing and testing for the five basic pathogens HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and Chagas disease. As the overall availability of donated blood in Latin America is generally low, the provincial health boards and communities have immediate access to the blood center’s database and can request blood as the need arises.

Expanding its services in 2010 to include both nucleic acid (NAT) and serology testing, the laboratory has become a modern blood screening and supply center. It has updated its infrastructure by automating processes that were previously performed manually, and has introduced training programs to help staff members adapt to the new technologies rapidly and diligently. One such process is adherence to screening algorithms that help ensure consistency in screening and decisions to be made on donated blood and its components.

Screening tests need to have minimum false-positive results because each such result leads to a lost blood unit and donor deferral. For this reason, all Elecsys® assays fulfill highest standards concerning specificity. Furthermore, they show high seroconversion sensitivity, so they can achieve a positive result even in a very early stage of infection. For example, the Elecsys HIV combi PT and Elecsys HBsAg II assays can detect the presence of infection within five and three days after polymerase chain reaction (PCR), respectively. During NAT screening, Multiplex testing improves efficiency by enabling more than one viral target to be investigated with each test, while minipool testing allows multiple donations to be screened. The high level of automation reduces manual tasks and the risk of error. In addition, linking the pre-analytic units to the laboratory management system enhances traceability and allows any errors that occur to be easily identified and rectified.

The Hemocentro Nacional of the Ecuadorian Red Cross has gained recognition as a reference laboratory in Latin America as it shows the benefit of integral process consolidation, integration of a blood bank information system, quality control and voluntary donation programs. As one of the top three investors in healthcare R&D worldwide, Roche is committed to continuing the development of fast and accurate testing technologies for clinical information and blood transfusion services.

References

1) World Health Organization (WHO). Blood safety – key global fact and figures in 2011. Fact Sheet no. 279, state of June 2011
2) World Health Organization (WHO). Global Database on Blood Safety (GDBS) 2008. Accessible at http://www.who.int/bloodsafety/global_database/en/