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Transfusion. 2005 May;45(5):814-8.

Fatal Yersinia enterocolitica biotype 4 serovar O:3 sepsis after red blood cell transfusion.

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  • 1From the Pasteur Institute, National Reference Laboratory and WHO Collaborating Center for Yersinia, Paris, France.



Although posttransfusion bacterial sepsis is rare, this complication is associated with a high mortality rate.


A fatal case of septic shock was observed in a 71-year-old patient following transfusion of contaminated red blood cells (RBCs) for refractory anemia. Yersinia enterocolitica was isolated from the patient's blood sample and the transfused RBCs. Both strains were of bioserotype 4/O:3 and had the same NotI pulsotype. High titers of antibodies against Y. enterocolitica were detected in the donor's plasma sample 1 month after blood donation. The donor reported abdominal discomfort 3.5 months before blood collection but had no clinical signs of intestinal infection at the time of donation.


Y. enterocolitica has been identified with increased frequency as a causative agent of posttransfusion septic shock. This nationwide investigation of these cases led to an estimated incidence of one case per 6.5 million RBC units distributed in France. Although rare, this often fatal complication remains nonpreventable worldwide owing to the lack of practical means for screening RBCs before transfusion.

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