The biggest use of blood products in NZ is in cancer treatment. Around 28% of all blood donations are used by cancer patients.
You may have heard someone say - I'm a baby donor or I donate for the babies. What does that mean?
It means these donors can donate blood for babies because they are CMV negative - that is to say they have not been exposed to the Cytomegalovirus (CMV).
This is important because in low birth weight infants the consequences of an infection from CMV may be severe or even fatal.
What is CMV?
CMV (Cytomegalovirus) is a double stranded DNA virus belonging to the herpes virus family. It is a complex flu-like virus that most adults are exposed to at some time in their lives.
Who gets CMV?
Almost everyone is susceptible to the virus, and as with other viruses, once you've had the infection your body starts to produce antibodies against the virus. The infection is suppressed but the virus is not completely cleared.
Why is CMV Negative Blood preferred for Paediatric Transfusions?
CMV persists in some of the white cells of people who have had this infection. These cells can transmit the infection by a blood transfusion, but in adults this rarely causes disease. However, in the case of low birth weight infants the consequences of transmitting CMV infection may be severe or even fatal because the immune system in an infant is not fully developed. Every precaution must be taken to avoid spreading the infection to newborn infants.
Scientific studies have shown blood lacking Cytomegalovirus (CMV negative blood) is safer for pediatric patients. Therefore, hospitals prefer to use CMV negative pediatric units to ensure the safety of blood transfusions to newborns.
Group O negative donors are most commonly chosen as paediatric donors as O negative is the universal blood group that can be given to newborns whose blood types may not yet be known.
How is donated blood tested for CMV?
NZBS checks for the presence of CMV antibodies in selected blood donations. The presence of antibodies means that CMV infection has occurred in the past and some white cells may still be carrying the virus.
If no antibodies are present, the donor is deemed CMV negative, and can be a baby donor.
Donors who have tested negative in the past are always re-tested prior to the release of their next donation because there is a chance the donor may have been exposed to CMV infection since the last donation.
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