Blood banks yet to adopt modern test for infections

Nucleic Acid Testing can detect carriers; high cost makes it unpopular

Blood banks yet to adopt modern test for infections

If you know that the blood that you have received from a private blood bank is not that of a person infected by HIV/Aids, it is time to put the question: Could that be the blood of a carrier? 

While all samples from the government blood banks and hospitals in the City undergo the Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) process to check for carriers of HIV, HBV or HCV, most private blood banks in the City are still adhering to the archiac Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA) test which does not check for carriers.  
  While, on an average, the ELISA, a test conducted on the anti-body takes a minimum of 15 days to give the results, the new NAT, which is a test at the molecular level, takes a maximum time of six days to reveal the results. NAT reduces the window period significantly and can detect HIV1 within six days after infection, Hepatitis C virus within four days after infection and Hepatitis B virus (HBV) within 15 days.   

Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, which is the only public hospital having the NAT facility, examines over 350 samples a day. This, despite its efficiency to examine over 1,000 samples at any given point in time.

 Manjunath, Technical Director, NAT, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital, said that all samples that come from the government blood banks undergo the test. 

“We see at least 350 samples a day. This is from the government hospitals alone,” he said. “We see more of HBV infected samples than those of any other,” he remarked.

He said that they were in talks with three renowned private hospitals in the City to encourage them to adopt NAT as the standard testing procedure. 

Manoj Tripathi, project director, Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society(KSAPS), said that while the norms of the Medical Council of India made it mandatory for the ELISA test to be done before any transfusion, NAT was not compulsory. “Price may be a concern for the reduced number of those opting for the test,” he said.  
       Dr Geeta Nyamagoudar, director, Department of Health and Family Welfare, said that considering that NAT was more effective, the department would co-ordinate with KSAPS and guide the private centres to adopt the same. She said they would bring down the NAT charges if private blood banks and hospitals were willing to use the facility. Presently, private institutes have to pay Rs 1,000 per sample for NAT. There are 172 blood banks in the State, including the government and private ones.

However, NAT is better as the time taken for confirmation is less, said Dr Riyaz Basha, professor, Department of Community Medicine, Bangalore Medical College.

He explained that as the infrastructure and apparatus needed for the test was too costly, it would be difficult to have it in many centres. The apparatus for NAT, Procleix TIGRIS used in Bowring Hospital, has been imported from the US. It is a high-end device that performs much better than any other method, said the technician at the hospital.

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