Man seriously ill in infected blood alert

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The Independent Online

Medical Correspondent

A man who was given blood from a type of bag implicated in a contamination scare was last night critically ill in hospital with blood poisoning.

A spokesman for the Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon, Wiltshire, said that its doctors had been told that any Tuta blood storage bags which had been checked by "hand and eye" for leaks could be used.

This appears to conflict with a National Blood Authority (NBA) decision on 29 June to withdraw and destroy up to 5,000 pints of blood stored in suspect batches of the imported bags after concerns about a faulty heat seal which could lead to bacterial contamination. The authority ordered the withdrawal of all remaining Tuta bags on Tuesday after the Australian manufacturers revealed that the problems may not be confined to certain batches but were "occurring sporadically" as a result of changes in production methods.

Senior officials in the NBA had previously expressed concern about the quality of the bags, according to official minutes seen by the Independent.

The hospital spokesman said: "At no point [before Tuesday] were we told by the Oxford Blood Transfusion Service [the regional centre] that they were recalling batches. We were told to chuck any bags that appeared to be leaky and those that weren't could be used at the discretion of the doctor. We checked and re-checked this guidance on Monday."

The critically ill patient was given a routine transfusion on Monday. No one from Oxford BTS could be contacted last night to comment on the hospital's claims.

Bacterial tests to identify the cause of the patient's infection are under way and results will be known later today. Blood poisoning following a transfusion is very rare, about one in a million cases, and is usually due to infected donor blood.

Depending on the type of bacteria isolated from the bloodstream, it should be possible to determine if it originated from the donor blood, from the Tuta bag, or from some other source.

About 20 per cent of blood stocks in England and Wales, up to 7,000 pints, are stored in Tuta bags. However, the NBA said the latest recall would have a minimal effect because donor sessions last weekend have replenished stocks. The NBA has been criticised for introducing Tuta bags last year in a move designed to save it pounds 700,000.