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Blood Safety

Drop of bloodThe safety of blood products is important for people with blood disorders such as hemophilia. Whether the need for blood is the result of an injury, a chronic medical need, or treatment of a blood disorder, blood and all of its components are quite literally essential parts of life.

Improvements in donor and blood screening have greatly reduced the risk of transmitting disease through blood and blood products. However, transfusion-related infections with known viruses continue to occur, and new and emerging viruses pose potential new threats to the safety of the blood supply. Therefore, monitoring the safety of blood and blood products in the people who use them is a key public health priority.

A Public Health Approach

The availability of safe blood and blood products is an important public health issue. We currently monitor blood product safety through two surveillance systems: the Universal Data Collection (UDC) system and the Thalassemia Data and Blood Specimen Collection (TDC Project).

Through UDC and TDC, we screen for bloodborne infections, such as hepatitis and HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), in people with blood disorders such as hemophilia and thalassemia. Through this monitoring we can also document potential risk factors for infectious diseases among people who have received blood products used to treat bleeding episodes.

The TDC, modeled after the UDC, focuses on people with a hereditary blood disorder called thalassemia who receive care at CDC-funded thalassemia treatment centers (TTCs). Blood safety monitoring in the TDC helps to detect known and emerging infections that could be transmitted through the frequent blood transfusions required by people with the severe anemia caused by thalassemia. In addition to testing for the presence of hepatitis and HIV, TTC participants are also tested for West Nile virus infection.

CDC’s Serum Bank

Woman looking through microscopeBlood samples from participating HTCs and TTCs are sent to the CDC Serum Bank in Lawrenceville, Georgia. A portion of the blood sample is sent to the Division of Blood Disorders laboratory to test for infectious diseases. The remainder is frozen and stored at the serum bank for future blood safety studies or outbreak investigations.

For example, samples from the serum bank were used in 2004 to assess exposure to parvovirus B19 (a virus that causes a common childhood illness) among young children with hemophilia who received clotting factor products made from donated blood. In that study, young children with hemophilia who had been treated with these products were more likely to have had the infection, suggesting that the virus was transmitted in the product. Since that time, additional steps have been taken in the manufacturing process of these products to reduce this type of risk. [Read parvovirus article summary]

Blood Safety Collaborations

CDC collaborates with its federal partners in blood safety. CDC works closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for regulating blood and blood products. CDC participates in a variety of blood safety workgroups across federal agencies, such as Health and Human Services (HHS) Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability (ACBTSA); and workgroups specific to pathogens, such as the Tickborne Working Group. In addition, CDC through the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases coordinates blood-related activities, including investigations, surveillance, research, policy making, strategic planning, and communication for Blood Safety between divisions.

More Information

Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability

U.S. Biovigilance

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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

    Division of Blood Disorders

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    Atlanta, GA 30333
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