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Babesiosis and blood transfusion: flying under the radar


: David A. Leiby, PhD, Department of Transmissible Diseases, American Red Cross, 15601 Crabbs Branch Way, Rockville, MD 20855, USA


Infectious agents of disease continue to plague transfusion medicine as an increasing number of pathogens are described that pose a potential blood safety risk. While the recent focus has been on newly emerged agents, several well-established pathogens provide timely reminders that other agents continue to pose threats, but invariably ‘fly under the radar’, thereby failing to elicit adequate measures to prevent their transmission by blood transfusion. Perhaps foremost among this group of agents are the Babesia spp., which have been known to cause human disease, in the USA, for close to 40 years. B. microti, B. divergens and several Babesia-like agents are responsible for a growing number of human babesiosis infections. Concomitantly, in the USA, there has been a sharp rise in the number of transfusion-transmitted infections of Babesia spp., attributable almost exclusively to B. microti. Despite the obvious public health issues posed by Babesia spp., options for preventing their transmission by blood transfusion remain limited. However, recognition that the Babesia spp. are indeed an ongoing and expanding blood safety threat will probably prove instrumental in the development of viable interventions to limit transmission of these agents.

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