Nav: Home

Reducing infectious malaria parasites in donated blood could help prevent transmission

April 21, 2016

A technique for reducing the number of infectious malaria parasites in whole blood could significantly reduce the number of cases of transmission of malaria through blood transfusion, according to a collaboration between researchers in Cambridge, UK, and Kumasi, Ghana.

Malaria is a blood-borne disease caused by the malaria parasite - in west Africa, this is mainly Plasmodium falciparum. The parasite is mainly transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria infection is endemic and a substantial proportion of the population carries the parasite, even when individuals do not show any symptoms. Only a few blood centres screen donor blood of the parasite and hence there is a high risk of malaria transmission through transfusion.

Because of resource limitations, the most common red blood cell product transfused is whole blood. A half of all blood donors in Ghana carry detectable levels of malaria parasites in the blood and as many as one in four (between 14-28%) of blood recipients become infected.

The Mirasol pathogen reduction technology system, developed by the US-based Japanese company Terumo BCT, has been developed to treat whole blood using ultraviolet light energy and riboflavin (vitamin B2) to reduce the parasite load and to inactivate white blood cells. It has been shown to reduce P. falciparum load in vitro and to maintain adequate blood quality during 21 days of cold storage.

In a study published today in The Lancet and funded by Terumo BCT, researchers report the results of the African Investigation of the Mirasol System (AIMS) trial, which explored whether the use of blood treated with Mirasol would prevent the transmission of malaria to patients with anaemia being supported with whole blood transfusion.

"In developing countries, blood supplies are often contaminated and blood banking systems cannot afford the newest technologies for detecting blood-borne pathogens," explains Professor Jean-Pierre Allain from the Department of Haematology at the University of Cambridge. "Technologies aimed at reducing the levels of parasites or infectious agents in the blood could benefit individual patients and also health-care systems."

The trial involved 214 patients, 107 of whom received Mirasol-treated blood, the remainder of whom received the normal blood products. Overall, 65 patients who previously were free of detectable parasites were transfused with blood retrospectively found to contain parasites - 28 of these blood products had been treated with Mirasol, 37 were untreated.

The incidence of transfusion-transmitted malaria was significantly lower for those patients who received the treated blood (one out of 28 patients, or 4%) compared to the untreated group (eight out of 37 patients, or 22%).

At the same time, the safety profile did not differ for patients receiving treated or untreated whole blood units. The treated whole blood group had fewer allergic reactions to the transfusion (5% vs 8%) and fewer overall reactions (8% vs 13%), possibly because of the technology also inactivates white blood cells including immune cells.

The researchers recognise that the overall number of transmissions was small, reducing the power of the study, but believe it still provides a clear indication that the Mirasol system could make a dramatic difference to the number of cases of malaria transmission via blood transfusion.

"This could be a real game-changer for blood safety in sub-Saharan African," adds Dr Shirley Owusu-Ofori from the Transfusion Medicine Unit, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana. "Reduced transfusion-transmissions of infectious agents means a more stable blood supply, reduced costs for the treatment of preventable infections, and direct benefits to women and children who are especially vulnerable to malaria."
-end-
Reference

Allain, JP et al. Effect of Plasmodium inactivation in whole blood on the incidence of blood transfusion-transmitted malaria in endemic regions: the African Investigation of the Mirasol System (AIMS) randomised controlled trial. Lancet; 23 April 2016

Declaration of interests

Jean-Pierre Allain, Alex Owusu-Ofori and Shirley Owusu-Ofori have received grants from Terumo BCT. Susanne Marschner is an employee of Terumo BCT. Raymond Goodrich is an employee of Terumo BCT and owns patents assigned to Terumo BCT. Sonny Michael Assennato declares no competing interests. Terumo BCT did not interfere with the basic design of the study, nor in the conducting of the trial or the interpretation of the data.

University of Cambridge

Related Malaria Articles:

Could there be a 'social vaccine' for malaria?
Malaria is a global killer and a world health concern.
Transgenic plants against malaria
Scientists have discovered a gene that allows to double the production of artemisinin in the Artemisia annua plant.
Fighting malaria through metabolism
EPFL scientists have fully modeled the metabolism of the deadliest malaria parasite.
Should we commit to eradicate malaria worldwide?
Should we commit to eradicate malaria worldwide, asks a debate article published by The BMJ today?
Investigational malaria vaccine shows considerable protection in adults in malaria season
An investigational malaria vaccine given intravenously was well-tolerated and protected a significant proportion of healthy adults against infection with Plasmodium falciparum malaria -- the deadliest form of the disease -- for the duration of the malaria season, according to new findings published in the Feb.
Why malaria mosquitoes like people with malaria
Malaria mosquitoes prefer to feed -- and feed more -- on blood from people infected with malaria.
Malaria superbugs threaten global malaria control
A lineage of multidrug resistant P. falciparum malaria superbugs has widely spread and is now established in parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, causing high treatment failure rates for the main falciparum malaria medicines, artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), according to a study published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Considering cattle could help eliminate malaria in India
The goal of eliminating malaria in countries like India could be more achievable if mosquito-control efforts take into account the relationship between mosquitoes and cattle, according to an international team of researchers.
Seasonal malaria chemoprevention in Senegalese children lowers overall malaria burden
Giving preventive antimalarial drugs to children up to age 10 during active malaria season reduced the cases of malaria in that age group and lowered the malaria incidence in adults, according to a randomized trial carried out in Senegal and published in PLOS Medicine by researchers from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, and other collaborators.
How malaria fools our immune system
OIST researchers reconstruct the 3-D structure of a malaria protein in combination with human antibodies.

Related Malaria Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#520 A Closer Look at Objectivism
This week we broach the topic of Objectivism. We'll be speaking with Keith Lockitch, senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute, about the philosophy of Objectivism as it's taught through Ayn Rand's writings. Then we'll speak with Denise Cummins, cognitive scientist, author and fellow at the Association for Psychological Science, about the impact of Objectivist ideology on society. Related links: This is what happens when you take Ayn Rand seriously Another Critic Who Doesn’t Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She’s Wrong Quote is from "A Companion to Ayn Rand"