Strategies for the avoidance of bacterial contamination of blood components.
Gram staining and bacterial culturing methods were used to determine the incidence of bacterial contamination of cellular blood components at the time of transfusion reactions. Over a 5-year period, 2208 (4.3%) of 51,278 transfusions were complicated by reactions. Overall bacterial contamination occurred in 5 (0.03%) of 17,928 transfusions of single-donor apheresis platelets, 1 (0.14%) of 712 transfusions of pooled random-donor platelet concentrates, 1 (0.003%) of 31,385 transfusions of red cells, and 0 of 1253 transfusions of fresh-frozen plasma. Gram staining done at the time of positive cultures was positive in three of six cases. Although six of seven recipients of contaminated components suffered no clinical sequelae, contaminated transfusions may have been a contributing cause of death in one case. Attempts were made to avoid the transfusion of contaminated cellular blood components by performing routine bacterial cultures: 0 of 341 quality control cultures were positive. To avoid the transfusion of contaminated platelets by identifying bacteria, Gram staining was performed in all single-donor apheresis platelet units collected on open systems and daily in platelets stored > 48 hours: 8 (0.15%) of 5334 smears done on 3829 platelet units were interpreted as positive, and those units were not transfused, but only two of eight units were culture positive. These studies suggest that bacterial contamination can result in adverse clinical sequelae in transfusion recipients and that both culturing and Gram staining are poor methods of screening for contaminated units. More sensitive and specific methods of generalized screening for bacterial contamination are needed.
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