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Transfusion. 1996 Sep;36(9):782-8.

Sources and sequelae of bacterial contamination of hematopoietic stem cell components: implications for the safety of hematotherapy and graft engineering.

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  • 1Blood Component Laboratory, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



It is important to compare the incidence of bacterial contamination of components collected from the peripheral blood or bone marrow (BM), as well as of components processed with or without cell selection or depletion, and to evaluate the sequelae of such contamination.


Bacterial contamination rates were compared in 1380 untreated autologous peripheral blood progenitor cells (PBPCs), 291 untreated autologous BM samples, 916 monoclonal antibody (MoAb)-treated autologous and allogeneic BM samples, and in 45 autologous PBPC components from which the CD34+ cells were selected. Bacterial cultures were performed at sequential time points during the processing of MoAb-treated BM.


Bacterial contamination was documented in 44 of 2632 components from 1593 patients (1.67% of components, 2.76% of patients) before cryopreservation. Although only 0.65% of untreated PBPCs were contaminated before cryopreservation, each patient was more likely to have given a contaminated PBPC component than a contaminated BM component (2.41% vs. 0%, p < 0.01). Bacterial contamination of MoAb-treated BM was greater during or after manipulation than it was before (2.33% vs. 0.77%, p < 0.05). At thawing, contamination was documented in 42 (1.97%) of 2136 components cultured. Ten (13.7%) of 73 patients who received hematopoietic progenitor cells that were contaminated before cryopreservation or at thawing developed fever or positive blood cultures within 48 hours of transfusion. Fever was associated with bacteremia in two cases, but no irreversible clinical sequelae were noted.


These studies suggest that, despite careful attention to sterile procedures, low-level contamination of hematopoietic stem cell components can be introduced before or during manipulation as well as at thawing, and that standards for monitoring of the procedures for collection, processing, cryopreservation, thawing, and transfusion of hematopoietic progenitor cells are necessary.

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