You are here

Risk of Acquiring a Transfusion-Transmitted Infection Found to be Low for Military Personnel Who Receive Blood on the Battlefield

December 16, 2010
A new study suggests that the risk for U.S. Military personnel of contracting an infection following an emergency blood transfusion is low considering screening procedures are limited on the battlefield.

A new study suggests that the risk for U.S. Military personnel of contracting an infection following an emergency blood transfusion is low considering screening procedures are limited on the battlefield. This study was published online on October 7, 2010 in Transfusion.

Researchers analyzed available pre- and post-transfusion samples from the 761 U.S. Service members who received a blood product—freshly collected whole blood or platelets—in Iraq and Afghanistan between March 1, 2002 and September 30, 2007. Investigators tested the samples for evidence of HIV, Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

No HIV infections were found and no HBV infections were found to be associated with an emergency battlefield transfusion. Findings indicate that one recipient had Hepatitis C infection associated with his emergency transfusion. 

Current U.S. Military clinical practice guidelines indicate the use of non-FDA compliant blood products voluntarily donated by other Service members during mass casualties and after the stored blood supply is exhausted in order to prevent hemorrhagic shock. Accordingly, several measures are in place to protect this blood supply and include routine screening for antibodies to HIV among civilian applicants, routine and predeployment HIV screening among active duty members for all military services, mandatory HBV vaccination and rapid diagnostic testing in the field for HIV, HBV and HCV. 

“This study reinforces the need to apply the aforementioned countermeasures consistently in order to protect Service members from contracting infections from emergency blood products,” said lead author Shilpa Hakre, Dr.P.H., M.P.H. of the MHRP Division of Epidemiology and Threat Assessment. Additionally, pre-deployment screening for HBV and HCV could serve as an additional measure to mitigate future emergency transfusion-related infections.