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Pathogen Reduction Technology Helps Combat Blood Borne Disease

By Jessica Pellegrini, ASBP Staff Writer
Pathogen Reduction Technology Helps Combat Blood Borne Disease
Bacterial contamination, viruses and increased international travel can pose a risk to the safety of the world’s blood supply. However, new pathogen reduction technologies are helping to mitigate those risks.

In December 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first pathogen reduction system to treat single donor apheresis platelets and the preparation of plasma products. According to Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Hoiles, chief of blood services at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., technologies such as these go a long way toward combating blood borne illnesses such as the Zika virus, Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.

“You see several diseases from many different countries, and since the military is global and service members are always traveling, we must be extra cautious in how we collect, test and ship our blood,” said Navy Capt. Roland Fahie, ASBP director. “This pathogen reduction technology is an important advancement to improve blood safety and reduce the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections. There is unlimited potential with inactivating other transfusion-transmitted viruses.”

Pathogen reduction technology gives blood collection organizations the ability to inactivate viruses, Hoiles said. It uses a photochemical process that involves controlled exposure to ultraviolet light and a chemical that facilities the inactivation process.

“Essentially, this chemical targets DNA and RNA, crosslinks upon the UV illumination and then blocks the reproduction of the pathogen,” Hoiles said. “The pathogen therefore dies and the disease cannot be transmitted.”

Hoiles also said that pathogen reduction technologies have the potential for helping platelets gain an extended shelf life. Current platelet products are good for five days.

“We could add between 17 and 25 hours of added shelf life to platelet products that use the pathogen reduction system,” Hoiles said. “With its worldwide mission, having a little extra shelf life would be a big benefit for the ASBP.”

According to Fahie, countries that are already using pathogen reduction in their daily operations are seeing the benefits.

“In France, for example, more than 150,000 units of pathogen reduced platelets were transfused over the course of eight years, and had zero transfusion-transmitted infections,” Fahie said. “Pathogen reduction technology will allow us to get there.”

The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center expects to have the technology available in April 2016.

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award.