Is Nucleic Acid Testing the only way to enhance blood safety?

ELISA kits inaccurate, NAT needed, say blood bank officials – Indian Express 1 Sep 2010

20 children get HIV, Hepatitis due to infected transfusion – THE HINDU 12 July 2010

There has been a spurt of reports in the media in recent times suggesting Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) would have prevented these incidences of transfusion associated infections and ELISA testing in ineffective.

I agree with all that the onus of providing safe blood rests on the blood centres. What I do not agree is the rumour spread by the media about ELISA and some “professionals” working in blood transfusion services falling prey to the well-orchestrated campaign of the manufactures and distributors of NAT.

The reasons for these reported incidents could be many fold – inappropriate selection of blood donors (most critical link in blood safety), use of ELISA kits of substandard quality, inappropriate storage and inadequate training in performing the tests. All these need to be looked into and appropriate corrective / preventive measures instituted.

ELISA is a Time-tested Technology and in fact in recent times the fourth generation tests have been released for use in blood centres.These tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are as clinically sensitive as NAT and can easily be automated and performed on the machines already available in the blood centres of India. Only ignorant “professionals” and those with “other” intentions can talk of NAT being made mandatory or ELISA is bad technology, at the cost of taxpayer’s money.

I do hope sense prevails upon these people to understand that if one spends 10% of the cost of NAT testing in promoting regular voluntary blood donation and testing the donated blood with modified antigen + antibody testing on ELISA platform  will certainly help India achieve the desired highest level of blood safety.

Saving Lives of Indian Children Globally – Need a Chris Smith in India… soon

Not only has God in His wisdom and goodness created a placenta and the umbilical cord to nurture and protect the precious life of an unborn child, but now we know that another gift awaits us immediately after birth. Something very special is left behind, cord blood that is teeming with life-saving stem cells,”

Read more about US Congressman Chris Smiths effort ...

Is Charity Dying in India?

Three incidents in quick succession make me feel that charity is dying in India.

In February 2009, Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre, a Chennai based not-for-profit established the first Public Cord Blood Bank to help children with blood cancers and Thalassemia. The vision is to make available matching stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood to these children either free or at affordable cost.

For this project which will benefit children across India and children of Indian origin across the world, Jeevan needs 90 crores of rupees over three years to collect, process, test and store 30,000 cord blood donations. The only silver lining in fund mobilisation is the approval of 35 AC status to donations up to 47 crores of rupees – meaning 100% tax exemption to donations. Donations in US and UK through www.giveindia.org are eligible for tax exemptions.

In this background let us look at the events:

1. Letters to over 500 Chairmen and CEOs of Indian companies has not elicited any response – except two companies contributing to 30,000 rupees each! I suspect (al)most all of them did not even reach the their table. All that was needed was 30,000 donations of 30,000 rupees each across India – I am sure organsiations like CII can facilitate this as “CSR” activity of the member companies!

2. During a recent dinner meeting one of my good friends said his company has a significanT tax liabIlity this year because of extremely good business – money came from sale of consumables to blood bank industry across India. I was told that his CA had advised him either to pay the tax and retain the money or share it with employees and write off as business expense instead of “donating”. His reason – these “loyal” employees will bring in more money to the company next year!

3. Recent suggestions of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India to change the policies relating to tax exemptions to donations, if approved, will place the final nail on the coffin of charity.

We at Jeevan are debating about the options available to ensure availability of matching stem cells to these children while the country is watching IPL3.

We are born optimists – like every team and owners of IPL!!!!

Till next time….

Srinivasan