System to Remove HIV From Donated Blood Planned

Florida Blood Services in St. Petersburg, Fla., is planning to test a system that would remove HIV, other viruses and bacteria from donated blood. Medical Director Dr. German Leparc said Monday that he hopes the experimental project will begin by April.

The announcement comes four months after two people contracted HIV during transfusions of tainted blood provided by Florida Blood Services. "What everybody expects is zero risk. Nobody wants to accept anything but zero risk," Leparc said. "I don't think there's anything in life that's zero risk ... but we're trying to get there."

Scientists are experimenting with two different methods of cleansing blood -- using ultraviolet light to kill viruses and bacteria, or killing them with chemicals. Leparc said he is talking with two Tampa-area hospitals about getting involved with the project, which would include two clinical studies. One would measure the effectiveness and safety of treated platelets; the other would measure how well treated red blood cells perform when they are transfused into patients undergoing open-heart surgery. Leparc said the study would attempt to determine if the treated blood works in the same manner as untreated blood, and if any side effects would negate any benefits.

After the two HIV cases through transfusions were confirmed, federal and state investigators determined that the blood provider met all government standards during the process. Before the July infections were announced, there was only one other reported case of HIV being transmitted during a transfusion since the nation's blood banks implemented new screening technology in 1999.

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