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Malaria and Blood transfusions

martin weiss weissm at ROCKVAX.ROCKEFELLER.EDU
Mon Nov 23 10:46:05 EST 1998

Malaria certainly can be transmitted by blood transfusion. The erythrocytic
cycle is in infectective to new rbcs and has been known to transmit the
disease via transfusion as well as to babies in utero. Transfusion risks
are reduced by interview and in countries of high risk like France (due to
immigrants from their former African colonies) screened by staining blood
smears with flourescent dyes. There may even be automated screening
techniques like flow cytometry. You might contact the Pastuer Institute in
France for more information or CDC or WHO or PAHO (Pan American Health
Organization). The American Red Cross in Washington may have some
information as well.

The risk is probably very low in this country but imagine someone traveling
to Africa, not taking prophylaxis medication, being bitten by a
mosquito-infected with P.falciparum, returning to the US and giving blood
at some time, and not necessarily being asked about recent travel (due to a
lapse). Almost a Doomsday scenario but...

It might be an interesting exercise for your class to work out the time
schedule involved. It is possible. When I was doing graduate work at NYU
Med School (on malaria) Bellevue Hospital would  get pateints (not a hugh
number but enough for us to be aware of them), especially from the UN, with
malaria. And some were travellers. There was also case of pre natal
infection of a baby of a herion user! So it need not only be blood
transfusion at a blood bank but in a shooting gallery as well. You might
discuss the relationship between blood in a needle and not only malaria
transmission but HIV as well.

Hope this is helpful.



>Hi, to whoever can help me.
>I was recently asked a question from my A level students concerning the
>possibility that malaria could be contracted via blood transfusions.  I told
>them that my instinct was that it could not, however I would find out for
>them.  I have researched extensively to no avail, so I am now asking 'the
>experts' out there to help me.
>If malaria can be transmitted via transfusions, I would like to know the
>mechanisms and whether or not blood is routinely screened for the protozoan.
>If it is not transmitted via transfusions I would like to know why not (They
>are a bright group, I can't put them off!).  I have a good knowledge (I
>thought :-) ) of microbiology, so I would appreciate an in-depth answer.
>            Thanks in advance
>                        Amber.

Martin Weiss, Ph.D.
Biology Director
New York Hall of Science
47-01 111th Street
Corona, New York 11368
weissm at rockvax.rockefeller.edu
718.699.0005 X 356, voice
718.699.1341, facsimile

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