I propose to take Questions Nos. 715 and 716 together.
The remit of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is to provide a safe, reliable and robust blood service to the Irish health system. A major objective of the IBTS is to ensure that it always has the necessary programmes and procedures in place to protect both the recipients and the donors of blood and blood products. The IBTS constantly keeps all deferral policies under review to ensure the ongoing safety of blood and the products derived from it.
The IBTS is regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) which is the designated Competent Authority under Irish and European Law. The testing procedures at the IBTS are therefore subject to regular audit by the HPRA.
The IBTS does not generally utilise individual risk assessment. However, the IBTS performs laboratory tests for multiple disease markers on every donation. Tests for the following infectious agents are done on each occasion a donor gives blood
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) types 1 & 2
- Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)
- Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
- Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
- Syphilis (Treponema pallidum)
- Human T-Lymphotropic virus (HTLV) type 1 and 2
The testing carried out includes serology, which essentially detects antibodies, and Nucleic Acid testing (NAT) which detects viral genetic material. NAT is very sensitive and is capable of detecting early infections before antibodies are formed. Any donation that is positive for any one of these tests cannot be used for transfusion purposes and is discarded. Further testing is carried out to confirm true infection.
The IBTS also performs selective laboratory tests for certain disease markers based on travel exposure (e.g. West Nile Disease). A certain proportion of the blood supply is tested for Cytomegalovirus (CMV). This is to mitigate the risk of transmission of this common virus to particularly vulnerable patients. All blood is also leucodepleted (i.e. the removal of white blood cells) which adds another layer of protection against CMV infection.