Theoretically estimated risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome transmission through blood transfusion during an epidemic in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China in 2003

Guifang Shang, Brad J Biggerstaff, Baocheng Yang, Chaopeng Shao, Albert Farrugia
Transfusion and Apheresis Science 2007, 37 (3): 233-40

BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a newly recognized infectious disease that caused an outbreak in south China in 2003. The cause of SARS was identified as a novel coronavirus (CoV). The existence of asymptomatic seroconvertors and the detection of the SARS-CoV RNA in plasma during the course of infection all suggest that SARS could, as least theoretically, be transmitted by transfusion. An estimate of the risk of SARS transmission through blood transfusion will contribute to decisions concerning blood safety monitoring and may be useful in the design of strategies to decrease the risk of transfusion-transmitted infections.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Case onset dates from the 2003 Shenzhen SARS epidemic and investigational results from Taiwan on viremia in humans are used to estimate the number of cases that were viremic throughout the epidemic. Estimates of the asymptomatic-to-clinically confirmed SARS-CoV infection ratio, the proportion of asymptomatic infections reported in a seroprevalence survey in Hongkong, and the population size of Shenzhen are used to infer the SARS-CoV transfusion-transmission risk. Statistical resampling methods are used.

RESULTS: Based on data from Shenzhen, Hongkong and Taiwan, the maximum and mean risk (per million) of SARS-CoV transmission from donors in Shenzhen were estimated as 23.57 (95% CI: 6.83-47.69) and 14.11 (95% CI: 11.00-17.22), respectively. The estimated risk peaked on April 02, 2003.

CONCLUSIONS: Although there are currently no confirmed reports of the transmission of SARS-CoV from asymptomatic individuals, recent research data indicate that transfusion-transmitted SARS-CoV is at least theoretically possible. Although the risk is low, with its rapid spread of the disease, appearance of alarmingly high infectivity and high fatality rate, public health authorities need to consider strategies for blood donor recruitment and virus inactivation during an epidemic to further ensure blood safety.


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