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“Potential Risk to Blood Supply Probed” – Wall Street Journal reports on NIH’s XMRV Working Group & blood screening in general

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“Efforts are under way to find effective tests for the virus and determine its prevalence, led by a working group funded by the National Institutes of Health and including federal agencies such as the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” according to an article by Amy Dockser Marcus posted April 4 on WSJ.com. “Blood banks, academic institutions and at least one advocacy group are also involved.” (Meanwhile, alerted to the issues, Canada announced a ban on CFS patient blood donations.)

In a well-balanced, very informative piece, Dockser Marcus explains XMRV research to date, issues regarding viral incidence and public health significance, and questions to be addressed regarding transfusions & the blood supply in particular.

As she reports, the Federal XMRV Working Group’s project involves two, and perhaps three phases.

1. Analysis to identify which of various current tests may be “sensitive and reliable enough” to identify evidence of XMRV in blood. And “results are expected in a few weeks.”

2. Sending hundreds of blinded blood samples for testing to each of four labs. Some samples from ME/CFS patients ‘known’ to have XMRV, some healthy donor samples ‘spiked with the virus’ and other healthy donor samples tested negative. The question: to what extent will the different labs’ findings agree?

3. If indicated, testing frozen federal blood specimens dating as far back as the ‘70s that link the blood donor to the blood recipients. Then if evidence of XMRV is found in a donor sample, testing the recipient’s sample.

In the broader context of blood supply testing and safety, Dockser Marcus notes that in the US donated blood is currently subjected to 12 screening tests (e.g., for HIV & hepatitis C). She provides an interesting chart regarding emerging infectious diseases with potential to pose a risk to the blood supply, one being the Lyme spirochete Borrelia burdorferi (little evidence of risk but high public concern).

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3 thoughts on ““Potential Risk to Blood Supply Probed” – Wall Street Journal reports on NIH’s XMRV Working Group & blood screening in general”

  1. nah.stacey says:

    Strangely enough this article comes out only a couple of weeks after I had called the Red Cross and spoken to a blood counselor there about a letter prohibiting me to donate blood I received in 2000. I had called to request a copy of the letter and any other information I could get from them concerning my Western Blot tests that came back positive or false/positive. We had a most interesting conversation as I explained to her about the conference held in Oct. ’09 between the CDC and CFIDS and it’s concern about blood donations. How when I received the first letter I wasn’t “sick” yet only fatigued, but thought nothing of it since I have five children, the youngest with incredibly sever CP. Fatigue???? Normal. I explained to her why I needed everything she could find about the WB test and any other tests they ran.
    I answered quite of few questions she had about the conference, the XMRV find, it’s relation to blood donating, and how those of us who have it have fought for years to convince the powers that be that this is a viral thing not a depression thing. Imagine my surprise that they are FINALLY taking it seriously.


  2. kuhen says:

    There are very real threats to our blood supply:
    – Screening of plasma or serum rather than blood cells which harbor viruses
    – The emergence of unknown pathogens
    – Lack of adequate tests to screen existing pathogens

    Real question: Is our blood supply safe?
    Answer: Hell, no!

    I work for small company, Ki Biotechnologies that, seeks to develop a
    donorless source of transfusable blood.
    As starting material we propose to use stem cells derived from using
    cord blood. These READILY AVAILABLE, PATHOGEN FREE progenitor cells
    can be expanded and differentiated ex vivo into completely mature and
    totally functional mature blood cells.

    The current lack of funding from federal and private sources is
    greatly impeding our efforts to produce a truly SAFE blood supply.
    The federal government has money, but it is somewhere in limbo. Many
    federal grants are earmarked for academia…not small business.
    Private investors do not seem to grasp the fact that our blood supply
    is not safe. At this point in time the US is far behind foreign
    researchers in creating a donorless blood supply. The only major US
    in this area is DARPA Blood Pharming.

  3. sick4ever says:

    The problem is that XMRV (and all retroviruses) insert themselves into and become part of the DNA. That means that even babies conceived by parents with XMRV have the virus in their DNA — and therefore in their stem cells — from the instant of conception.

    Until we have definitive testing for XMRV, any stem cells your company could use might already contain the virus, and thus the blood produced could infect recipients. Even when reliable testing for XMRV is available, what about all the other retroviruses — including the untold numbers of which we have no knowledge yet?

    I’m no scientist, so perhaps my reasoning is faulty here. But it’s definitely an issue which should be addressed before stem-cell produced blood is marketed as a panacea for transfusion safety.

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