15 June 2012
New Delhi: The Delhi government is going to introduce Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAT) to check the safety of donated blood, state health secretary Anshu Prakash said on Thursday. He said that new technology will reduce the window period to identify life-threatening infections, for example hepatitis B & C and HIV. He added the linking of various blood banks in the city through computers, a project that has been stalled for over five years, is also being taken up and will be completed soon.
"We plan to start this facility at two centres – LNJP Hospital and GTB Hospital. The modalities for implementation of the new system are being worked out," said Dr Bharat Singh, director, State Blood Transfusion Council. He said that while an Elisa test – technology available at present – costs only about Rs 100, NAT will cost close to Rs 900 per donor. Donated blood undergoes five tests: malaria, syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B and C.AIIMS, RML Hospital (both under the Centre), some private hospitals and blood banks run by NGOs already have NAT facility.
Senior health officials said that with the current testing methods it is difficult to identify the viruses during the ‘window period’. "In this phase, the virus is multiplying in the body but the donor may unknowingly donate infected blood," she said. The official added that the union government had made blood screening mandatory in 2000 given the high prevalence of hepatitis and HIV in India. However, existing standard of care (ELISA serology testing) in India continues to allow a ‘window period’ between viral infection and viral detection. TNN