KARACHI  -  The inaugural of the first blood bank in public sector to adopt Real-Time PCR based NAT technology was held on Wednesday, at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS).

This crucial and timely step taken by the DUHS to contribute a significant role in reducing the rate of transfusion transmitted diseases like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B virus (HBV), Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and West Nile Virus (WNV) in Pakistan. This technology is the world’s latest and the safest technology available which help minimize the window period and offers much higher sensitivity for detecting viral infections and safe blood transfusions for all.

DUHS spokesman said that the traditional method for blood screening which is also known as immunoassay or more commonly as the serology test detects anti-bodies to viruses or viral antigens. Thus, if there are no antibodies present, as during the window period these simple traditional tests may not highlight or trigger a positive test reaction.

He said that window period is the time duration when the donor is exposed to a virus until anti-bodies against the virus are produced and the risk of infection in donated blood can be missed. That is, if the blood is donated during the window period, when the virus and its anti-bodies are not detectable by either of the old traditional screening tests but the infectious agent may be present in the blood of the donor, this can infect three other patients and the disease can transmit and increase its range in this way.

“Nucleic acid testing (NAT) is the most advanced tool which uses Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to detect the presence of viral infections including the DNA and RNA viruses by simply screening the whole blood and plasma samples,” he added.

He further said that this test is performed on donations of blood and other blood components that may contain HIV, HCV and other such blood transfusion transmitted diseases.

There are approximately 40 percent of the 92 million donations of blood round the globe that are not tested and screened with the NAT- Reaction (PCR) technology to detect the presence of viral infections including the DNA and RNA viruses by simply screening the whole blood and plasma samples.

This test is performed on donations of blood and other blood components that may contain HIV, HCV and other such blood transfusion transmitted diseases.

The under developed countries are most likely to use contaminated blood due to inadequate serology testing and higher disease prevalence. This technology is beneficial as it takes about only a week to detect HCV – RNA after infection while it takes about two months to detect such viruses through simple serology testing.

The Nucleic Acid Testing assays help detecting and decreasing the risk of blood transmitted diseases like HIV, HBV, HCV, WNV, Parvovirus B19 and HAV. The increasing global trend of adopting NAT technology is contributing to reduce the rate of transfusion-transmitted diseases.

The US blood banks introduced NAT technology for detecting HIV and HCV in the late 1990s to increase blood safety and transmission. Today, US has been able to supply 100 percent safe blood that is screened with NAT for HIV, HBV, HCV and WNV.