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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2007 May;131(5):719-33.

Pathogen inactivation: the definitive safeguard for the blood supply.

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  • 1National Institutes of Health, Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center, Department of Transfusion Medicine, 10 Center Dr, MSC-1184, Building 10, Room 1C711, Bethesda, MD 20894-1184, USA.



Pathogen inactivation provides a proactive approach to cleansing the blood supply. In the plasma fractionation and manufacturing industry, pathogen inactivation technologies have been successfully implemented resulting in no transmission of human immunodeficiency, hepatitis C, or hepatitis B viruses by US-licensed plasma derivatives since 1985. However, these technologies cannot be used to pathogen inactivate cellular blood components. Although current blood donor screening and disease testing has drastically reduced the incidence of transfusion-transmitted diseases, there still looms the threat to the blood supply of a new or reemerging pathogen. Of particular concern is the silent emergence of a new agent with a prolonged latent period in which asymptomatic infected carriers would donate and spread infection.


To review and summarize the principles, challenges, achievements, prospective technologies, and future goals of pathogen inactivation of the blood supply.


The current published English-language literature from 1968 through 2006 and a historical landmark article from 1943 are integrated into a review of this subject.


The ultimate goal of pathogen inactivation is to maximally reduce the transmission of potential pathogens without significantly compromising the therapeutic efficacy of the cellular and protein constituents of blood. This must be accomplished without introducing toxicities into the blood supply and without causing neoantigen formation and subsequent antibody production. Several promising pathogen inactivation technologies are being developed and clinically tested, and others are currently in use. Pathogen inactivation offers additional layers of protection from infectious agents that threaten the blood supply and has the potential to impact the safety of blood transfusions worldwide.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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