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Tainted Blood Contributes to Death

July 27, 2006

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A hospital patient died after receiving a unit of blood platelets tainted with E. coli bacteria, the Community Blood Center in Kansas City said.

The Food and Drug Administration determined the transfusion, which took place Dec. 21, was a ``contributing factor″ in the patient’s death.

``It truly was a tragic incident, and a very rare series of mistakes,″ David Graham, director of donor recruitment for the blood center, said Wednesday.

Citing patient confidentiality, Graham said he could not discuss the hospital or the patient, other than to say the patient was being treated for a serious illness at an area hospital. Only one unit of the tainted blood was released, he said.

Graham said the center tests all its blood products for various contaminants but accidentally released the platelets in question. After discovering the problem, he said, the center notified the hospital a matter of hours after the hospital received the platelets, but the unit already had been used.

In a warning letter dated March 9, the FDA chastised the blood center, saying its procedures are ``not always maintained and followed.″ The agency pointed out problems with inadequate training and said the blood center had failed to maintain adequate records of donors who experienced reactions such as fainting or vomiting.

Graham said the problems had been rectified.

E. coli bacteria can cause severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Young children and the elderly are at risk of complications that can lead to kidney damage or death.

The donor never developed symptoms, but health officials believe he carried the bacteria at least briefly, said Dr. Jay Menitove, executive director and medical director of blood at the center. The bacteria would have had a chance to multiply while sitting in a bag at room temperature, he said.

Rich Pendleton, the director of compliance for the Kansas City FDA, said he had no reason to doubt the center’s account. Pendleton would not comment further, saying the investigation was still ongoing.

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