Bacterial Contamination:
The Most Frequent Transfusion-Transmitted Infection

The estimated incidence of bacterial contamination is 1 in 2000 random donor or apheresis platelet units [1, 2]
Bacterial contamination is acknowledged as the most frequent transfusion-transmitted infection of all blood components [3]. Bacteria are a particular problem in platelet concentrates because of their storage at room temperature, which favors rapid bacterial growth. In addition, bacteria are an under-reported problem in platelet transfusions [4].

Prevalence of Bacterial Contamination of Cellular Blood Products:
Summarized from the Available Prospective Studies [4]
Product No. of Studies No. of Positive Units No. of Units Tested Positive Units (per 105 U) Approximate Frequency
Whole Blood Derived Platelet Concentrates (a) 8 64 188,958 33.9 1 in 3,000
Apheresis Platelet Concentrates (b) 5 21 41,175 51.0 1 in 2,000
Red Blood Cells (c) 2 1 38,475 2.6 1 in 38,000
Overall 15 86 268,608 32.0* 1 in 3,00

References: a[5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12], b[7, 8, 13, 14, 15], c[7, 14]
*95% confidence intervals; 25.6 to 39.1

Impact of Bacterial Contamination

  • Transfusion-associated bacterial sepsis is estimated to occur in 1 case per 6 contaminated units transfused [16], and can be fatal in up to 1 in 4 cases [17].

  • In the UK, Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT) data from 1996 to 2001 indicate that 60% of all reported cases of transfusion-transmitted infection were attributed to bacterial contamination [18].

  • In France, Haemovigilance Network data reported 15% of transfusion-related deaths between 1996 - 1997 were due to bacterial contamination [4, 19].

Current Safeguards

Despite a battery of tests for viral pathogens, only a single bacterial strain—Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes syphilis—has historically been selected for routine screening.

Although automated culture methods are available for detecting the presence of different classes of bacteria, these systems have limitations, including sampling errors, false-positive and false-negative results, and long lead times of up to 48 hours for reporting.

Benefits of the INTERCEPT Blood System

The INTERCEPT Blood System offers broad-spectrum inactivation of bacterial pathogens in platelet concentrates and plasma, reducing the risk of transfusion-transmitted infection.

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