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Transfus Med. 1996 Mar;6(1):61-3.

Yersinia enterocolitica transmission from a red cell unit 34 days old.

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  • 1North London Blood Transfusion Centre.


In 1993 the North London Blood Transfusion Centre received its first report of Yersinia enterocolitica transmission from a unit of red cells supplied to a local hospital. The recipient was a 23-year-old male who was neutropenic following a third cycle of chemotherapy for treatment of acute myeloblastic leukaemia (FAB type M6) and received a 34-day-old red cell unit. During transfusion the patient developed septicaemia and endotoxin-mediated shock. The transfusion was stopped immediately and broad spectrum antibiotics administered immediately on suspicion of bacteraemia from the transfused unit. This prompt action undoubtedly prevented a fatal outcome. Y. enterocolitica was isolated from the blood bag. Antibody was also detected in the bag and in a sample taken from the donor 39 days post-donation. Antibody to serotype 03 was identified, the commonest serotype reported in transfusion-transmitted Y. enterocolitica. The donor reported no gastrointestinal upset or illness prior to donation. This transfusion reaction might not have occurred had the red cells been transfused earlier in their storage period, but would not have been prevented by the exclusion of donors with a history of gastrointestinal illness as the donor was asymptomatic. Nor would it have been prevented by inspecting the blood for a change in colour, as no such change was observed. Y. enterocolitica is a significant problem in transfusion medicine and transmission is generally associated with a high mortality rate. Hospitals should be urged to investigate bacteriologically all appropriate transfusion reactions so that the true extent of the problem in the United Kingdom can be assessed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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