FDA aims to boost safety of platelets for transfusion


The Food and Drug Administration is asking for comments on its newly released draft guidance on how industry can reduce the risk of bacterial contamination in platelets destined for transfusion, especially those stored at room temperature.

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The draft document, “Bacterial Risk Control Strategies for Blood Collection Establishments and Transfusion Services to Enhance the Safety and Availability of Platelets for Transfusion,” will be open for public comment through Feb. 4, 2019.

It is the first update to the policy document since 2016.

In the draft guidance, the FDA recommended three strategies for platelets stored for 5 days from collection. For apheresis platelets and prestorage pools, the FDA suggested an initial primary culture followed by a secondary culture on day 3 or day 4 or an initial primary culture followed by secondary testing with a rapid test. The third strategy – for apheresis platelets – is pathogen reduction alone.

The FDA also outlined three strategies for testing platelets stored for 7 days, all of which apply to apheresis platelets. The methods include an initial primary culture followed by a secondary culture no earlier than day 4, using a device labeled as a safety measure; an initial primary culture followed by a secondary rapid test, labeled as a safety measure; or large volume delayed sampling.

The supply of blood and blood components in the United States is among the safest in the world, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in a statement. The FDA’s continuously updated protocols are intended to keep it that way.

“Blood and blood components are some of the most critical medical products American patients depend upon,” Dr. Gottlieb wrote. “But there remains risk, albeit uncommon, of contamination with infectious diseases, particularly with blood products that are stored at room temperature. While we’ve made great strides in reducing the risk of blood contamination through donor screening and laboratory testing, we continue to support innovations and blood product alternatives that can better keep pace with emerging pathogens and reduce some of the logistical challenges and costs associated with ensuring the safety of blood products.”

Since the 2016 guidance document was issued, new strategies for bacterial detection have become available that could potentially reduce the risk of contamination of platelets and permit extension of platelet dating up to 7 days, including bacterial testing strategies using culture-based devices, rapid bacterial detection devices, and the implementation of pathogen reduction technology.

The recommendations in the draft guidance incorporate ideas put forth during a July 2018 meeting of the agency’s Blood Products Advisory Committee. Committee members were asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of various strategies to control the risk of bacterial contamination in platelets, including the scientific evidence and the operational considerations involved. Their comments have been incorporated into the new draft guidance document.

In late November 2018, the FDA held a public workshop to encourage a scientific discussion on a range of pathogen reduction topics, including the development of novel technologies. “The ideal pathogen reduction technology would: be relatively inexpensive, be simple to implement on whole blood, allow treated blood to subsequently be separated into components or alternatively could be performed on apheresis products, inactivate a broad range of pathogens, and would have no adverse effect on product safety or product yield,” the FDA noted in a statement.

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