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Background

Babesia microti is the leading reported cause of red blood cell (RBC) transfusion-transmitted infection in the United States. Donor screening assays are in development.

Study Design and Methods

A decision analytic model estimated the cost-effectiveness of screening strategies for preventing transfusion-transmitted babesiosis (TTB) in a hypothetical cohort of transfusion recipients in Babesia-endemic areas of the United States. Strategies included: 1) no screening; 2) Uniform Donor Health History Questionnaire (UDHQ), “status quo”; 3) recipient risk targeting using donor antibody and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening; 4) universal endemic donor antibody screening; and 5) universal endemic donor antibody and PCR screening. Outcome measures were TTB cases averted, costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs; $/QALY). We assumed a societal willingness to pay of $1 million/QALY based on screening for other transfusion-transmitted infections.

Results

Compared to no screening, the UDHQ avoids 0.02 TTB cases per 100,000 RBC transfusions at an ICER of $160,000/QALY whereas recipient risk–targeted strategy using antibody/PCR avoids 1.62 TTB cases per 100,000 RBC transfusions at an ICER of $713,000/QALY compared to the UDHQ. Universal endemic antibody screening avoids 3.39 cases at an ICER of $760,000/QALY compared to the recipient risk–targeted strategy. Universal endemic antibody/PCR screening avoids 3.60 cases and has an ICER of $8.8 million/QALY compared to universal endemic antibody screening. Results are sensitive to blood donor Babesia prevalence, TTB transmission probability, screening test costs, risk and severity of TTB complications, and impact of babesiosis diagnosis on donor quality of life.

Conclusion

Antibody screening for Babesia in endemic regions is appropriate from an economic perspective based on the societal willingness to pay for preventing infectious threats to blood safety.