Most of us associate malaria with mosquitoes, but that’s not the only case. Infected blood transfusion can also be one of the reasons for contracting the disease.
For this, the FDA-governed blood banks use Rapid Malaria Antigen (RMA) kits to diagnose the presence of malaria parasite in the blood units. However, KEM Hospital, which has a collection of more than 34,000 blood units, has used only 18,125 RMA kits in the year 2014.
The issue came to the fore after a doctor filed an RTI query inquiring about the number of RMA kits used in 2014. While one antigen kit can be tested on only one unit of blood, a senior official from the hospital told mid-day that the wide gap between the number of kits and blood units is because they have been testing 25 units with just one kit.
While the hospital took more than a year to respond to the query, the information was released only after the first appeal was filed with the state information officer on January 5 this year.
Speaking to mid-day about the importance of the kits, Sandip Salokhe, medical director of JJ Mahanagar Blood Bank said if the unit of blood is infected and is issued without checking, there are chances of the disease being transmitted. He added, “RMA testing is used widely due to its faster results and reliability. It is also quite affordable at R20-30. And, this makes it popular even with district-level blood banks. Not a single unit of blood is issued without malaria tests.”
City pathology experts have cited the usage of these kits, introduced around five years back, for malaria diagnosis as more reliable and faster than the orthodox peripheral smear testing. A pathology expert from another tertiary care civic facility said that a blood bank never violates the FDA standards of issuing blood without performing tests for malaria.
“There have been zero transmission cases for malaria till now. The tests are widely accepted and reliable. Another method, peripheral smear testing, is also used, but mostly by the hematology department or in OPDs”, the expert added.
Though, there is no information available to ascertain that malaria-infected blood was used by the KEM hospital, the discrepancies in the issue are a matter of concern.
Talking to mid-day, a senior official of the blood bank, on the condition of anonymity said as the blood bank is short-staffed, the FDA has postponed their inspection and that they have been testing 25 blood units with one kit.
“There is no chance that infected blood is issued. First of all, if the donor has fever due to malaria, there is very less chance that they will seek blood donation. Secondly, you can check 25 units with one kit,” said the expert.