Background - The urgency of maintaining a safe and adequate blood supply is increasing. One approach to ensure a sufficient supply is to limit the outdating frequency of blood components. Pathogen inactivation technology was developed primarily to increase safety by preventing transmission of infectious diseases. The Intercept Blood System for pathogen reduction of red blood cells (RBC) has additional benefits such as inactivation of leucocytes and removal of plasma and storage debris through centrifugation. Irradiation and automated washing are detrimental to the RBC membrane and often implicate shortened shelf-life. We aimed to assess whether pathogen inactivation can replace RBC irradiation and washing to avoid shelf-life reduction.
Materials and methods - RBC concentrates (n=48) were pooled-and-split into four study arms, which underwent pathogen inactivation treatment, irradiation, automated washing or no treatment (reference). RBC quality was evaluated during 42 days by assessment of storage lesion. Washing efficacy was defined by IgA and albumin reduction.
Results - Pathogen reduced RBCs had similar membrane preservation to reference RBCs (hemolysis, microvesicles and extracellular potassium ions), whereas the RBCs were negatively impacted by irradiation or automated washing. ATP increased substantially post-pathogen inactivation, while
2,3-DPG decreased. Pathogen inactivation considerably reduced albumin and IgA, though slightly less efficiently than automated washing.
Discussion - RBCs exhibit superior membrane preservation after pathogen inactivation treatment, compared to both irradiation and automated washing. This suggests that replacement is possible, even though the plasma reduction protocol could be further optimised.
Replacement of irradiated and washed RBC concentrates with pathogen reduced RBC concentrates storable up to 42 days would be advantageous for both the blood supply and patient safety.