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NAT Testing Can Enable Access to ‘Safe Blood’ in Kerala: Experts

Kochi: Leading medical and blood transfusion experts expressed and emphasized the urgent need to introduce Nucleic Acid Amplification Technology (NAT) test across Kerala’s blood screening facilities and hospitals to enable access to ‘ safe blood ’ and contain the challenge of transfusion transmitted infections (TTIs).

A panel of experts including Dr. Abraham Varghese, Medical Officer, IMA Blood Bank, Kochi, Dr Susheela J. Innah, HoD, Clinical Lab & Blood Bank, Jubilee Mission Medical College & Research Institute, Thrissur and Dr. Sandeep Sewlikar, Head – Medical and Scientific Affairs, Roche Diagnostics India were addressing media here today to discuss the benefits of NAT testing in Blood Banks.

Discussing the need for implementing advanced blood screening methods across Blood Banks in Kerala, the panel said that NAT is advisable as it directly detects the genetic material (RNA & DNA) of the infecting organism or virus namely HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. NAT 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 they show up as positive by the routine mandatory antigen/ antibody tests – is shortened. Considering the window period of detection is shorter for NAT, TTIs could be reduced in recipients of NAT-tested blood.

NACO had reported earlier that between September 2014 and March 2016, 89 contracted HIV in Kerala from blood transfusion.

Many hospitals/ blood banks in the country and the State are yet to install the NAT facility. Government records show that approximately 20,592 people across the country contracted HIV due to blood transfusions since 2007. Out of total blood collected in the State, it is estimated that 0.5-1% blood may be infected. The panel also spoke about encouraging voluntary blood donation as it is also a means of reducing/ minimizing the risk of TTIs.

Dr. Abraham Varghese said, “In Kerala, there are approximately 160 blood banks/ blood collection facilities. Out of which only 1-2% have NAT facility. It becomes absolutely important to have mandatory blood screening through advanced techniques like NAT while encouraging voluntary blood donations, since about 70% blood donations come through replacement or family donors. It is observed that the rate of infections is higher in replacement donors.

While it is important to gauge the extent of infections like HIV through blood transfusion, it is important that we take into cognizance the extent of negative impact such infections have on every person who gets infected. They come for transfusion for an existing ailment, and go back with another, which increases their cost of treatment, reduces their productivity etc.”

Dr Susheela J. Innah, commented, “The issue of safe blood transfusion and stringent quality check is as critical as the issue of blood shortage, and needs to be addressed on priority. We at Jubilee Hospital, maintain the highest standards of blood screening. Recently, we launched NAT testing in our Blood Bank, which we believe will not just help patients in Thrissur, but across the neighbouring cities and towns.

In my view, it is critical for the medical community to enable access to NAT tested safe blood for the benefit of patients in the State and their families. Considering that every unit of blood (when broken up into blood components) can be useful to 3 recipients, our responsibility correspondingly increases.”

In my view, it is critical for the medical community to enable access to NAT tested safe blood for the benefit of patients in the State and their families. Considering that every unit of blood (when broken up into blood components) can be useful to 3 recipients, our responsibility correspondingly increases.”

Dr. Sandeep Sewlikar, ‎Head – Medical and Scientific Affairs – ‎Roche Diagnostics India, said, “It is important for people to understand the requirement of safe blood. While in need of blood sometimes people tend to ignore the fact that blood transfused in body can be infected. The NAT solution from Roche enables screening of donated blood units, to further reduce the risk of TTIs over the existing mandatory screening techniques.”

Dr. Sandeep Sewlikar, ‎Head – Medical and Scientific Affairs – ‎Roche Diagnostics India, said, “It is important for people to understand the requirement of safe blood. While in need of blood sometimes people tend to ignore the fact that blood transfused in body can be infected. The NAT solution from Roche enables screening of donated blood units, to further reduce the risk of TTIs over the existing mandatory screening techniques.”

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