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Transfusion-Transmitted Malaria and Mitigation Strategies in Nonendemic Regions

  • Niederhauser, Christoph
  • Galel, Susan A.
Published Article
Transfusion Medicine and Hemotherapy
S. Karger AG
Publication Date
Jul 15, 2022
DOI: 10.1159/000525414
  • Review Article
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Background: Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. These parasites can be transmitted by blood transfusion especially through Red Cell Blood Concentrates collected from asymptomatic and parasitemic donors. As migration of populations from endemic areas to Europe and overseas recreational travel to endemic regions increase, there is growing risk of transfusion-transmitted malaria (TTM) in nonendemic regions of the world. The present work provides an overview of the mitigation strategies in nonendemic countries and their effectiveness and discusses possible approaches to evolve the strategies in order to maintain both a safe and adequate blood supply. Summary: The historical and current situation of malaria and TTM in Europe and on the North American continent are described. The infectivity of Plasmodium in blood components and the consequences of TTM are presented, along with the regulations and guidelines for TTM mitigation in Europe, USA, and Canada. The regulations/guidelines currently in place in Europe allow a certain amount of leeway for local policies. A questionnaire was used to survey European countries regarding their current strategies and recent TTM cases. From the questionnaire and published cases, approximately 20 cases of TTM were identified in the past 20 years in the USA and Europe. The vast majority of implicated donors have been former residents of malaria-endemic areas, particularly former residents of hyperendemic areas in Africa. The most recent TTM cases are discussed in detail to provide insight into the gaps in current strategies. The utility and uncertainties of pathogen reduction and serological and molecular testing methods are discussed. Key Messages: Overall, the risk of transfusion-associated malaria in nonendemic countries is considered to be low and very few TTM cases occurred in these regions in the last 20 years. The questionnaire-based strategy with questions about risk in relation to malaria exposure with or without selective testing based on questioning seems to be relatively effective, although rare and sometimes fatal transmissions still occur. An outstanding question is whether in the future molecular methods may further improve the safety of blood products and help constrain the loss of donors.

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