Log In

Reset Password

Federal Research Study To Look At Tick-Borne Diseases



Text Size

Federal Research Study To Look At Tick-Borne Diseases

FARMINGTON — The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has announced that the Connecticut region of the American Red Cross Blood Services, in a cooperative effort with the New England Region, is among six US blood banks selected to participate in the Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study-II (REDS-II) that will investigate tick-transmitted blood-borne diseases.

The goals of the REDS-II program are to study the safety and adequacy of the US blood supply, to monitor known blood-borne infectious agents, and to rapidly assess the risks posed by emerging pathogens. The program participants will also evaluate safety of changes in donor screening procedures and examine factors that influence blood donor behaviors.

Ritchard Cable, MD, chief medical officer of the Connecticut Region, will serve as the principal investigator for the study for the New England and Connecticut Red Cross Blood Services Regions. Richard Benjamin, chief medical officer of the New England Region and Jorge Rios, MD, associate medical director of the New England Region, will serve as co-investigators.

“Our proposal recommends we study the risk of tick-transmitted blood borne diseases, such as babesiosis or Lyme disease, both of which are common here in New England. We’d also like to study normal variations in hemoglobin values to define the acceptable hemoglobin level for blood donations. Low hemoglobin [‘iron’] levels are the most common reason why normal healthy donors are turned away when they try to donate blood” Dr Cable said, noting that 38 percent of total blood volume is the currently accepted FDA hemoglobin level that every blood donor in the United States must meet. A change in that percentage threshold could have a significant effect on the adequacy of the nation’s blood supply.                     

The REDS program was established in 1989 when the NHLBI selected five blood centers across the United States to pursue a coordinated epidemiologic study of the retroviruses HIV-1, HIV-2, HTLV-I, and HTLV-II in volunteer blood donors. These studies helped define and eventually almost eliminate the risk of these viruses in the blood supply.

 “The REDS study is one of the major mechanisms tracking emerging threats to the US blood supply. The participation of both Red Cross blood centers in New England in the REDS II study will help ensure that New England’s blood supply remains safe and sufficient,” said Dr Benjamin, who also will take on the responsibility as interim chief executive officer for the Connecticut Region.

The next step in the REDS-II program is to determine which projects — including two proposed by Drs Cable, Rios, and Benjamin — will be areas of concentration over the life of the five-year study.

Other blood banks participating in REDS-II are the Southern Region-American Red Cross Blood Services, Atlanta; the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin; Hoxworth Blood Center, University of Cincinnati; Lifesource Blood Services/Institute of Transfusion Medicine, Pittsburgh; and the University of California, San Francisco/Blood Centers of the Pacific.

Comments are open. Be civil.

Leave a Reply