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Malaria and blood transfusion

DocParasit docparasit at aol.com
Sat Nov 21 18:54:06 EST 1998

Amber, The answer is unequivocally YES--it is possible to contract malaria via
blood transfusion.  In a country such as the US, the prevalence of infection is
so low that it'a not cost-effective to do any type of screening test;  rather,
donors who might be infected are excluded (hopefully, if they tell the truth)
by questionnaire (the usual question is "Have you visited a malarious area in
the last 3 years?").  The reason for the 3-year cut-off is that two species of
Plasmodium parasites, P. vivax and P. ovale, can remian in the liver in a
"dormant" stage and can relapse and cause disease long after a person has left
the malarious area.  Most relapses occur within  3 years, hence its
significance.  In endemic areas, excluding infected donors is problematic
because of the higher prevalence of infection.  A brief examination,
questionnaire and a thin/thick smear are all useful.  When the new antigen
dipstick tests become more widely available, they will also no doubt be used in
such a situation.

Other parasitic infections transmitted via blood transfusion:  American and
African trypanosomiasis (the former is especially in Latin America), babesoisis
and leishmaniasis.  

Just a suggestion:  point your students' built-in browsers (also called noses)
to the usual parasitology and trop medicine textbooks for more information.  My
completely personal opinion is that an entire generation of students is being
raised with the idea that "research" consists of running to the Web and doing a
keyword search.  Hope I'm not sounding like a Luddite when I say that there is
much information to be gained the old-fashioned way, and that much of it will
NOT be found on the Web, no matter how many searches are done.

Dr. Bob Garrison
Sacramento, CA 

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