Despite changes in eligibility policies, practical barriers limit blood donor donations from individuals with hemochromatosis.
Increased knowledge of hemochromatosis donor characteristics may help foster further changes that will promote more donations.
As part of the Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Study, Ana M. Sanchez and colleagues have therefore carried out an investigation into the prevalence of donors diagnosed as having hemochromatosis.
In addition, the group compared rates of unreported deferrable risks for transfusion-transmissible viral infections (TTVIs) and positive screening test results for TTVIs. They also compared donation patterns between hemochromatosis patient donors and donors reporting no medical conditions necessitating phlebotomy (non-health donors).
The researchers conducted their study by means of an anonymous mail survey sent out to a stratified probability sample of 92,581 blood donors, from eight geographically diverse US blood centers. A total of 52,650 (57%) of participants responded.
| Hemochromatosis patients present no greater risk to blood safety than other donors.|
| Journal of the American Medical Association |
Within the study population, less than 1% (197) identified themselves as hemochromatosis patients and just over 95% (50,079) as non-health-related donors.
An estimated 0.8% of all donations were from hemochromatosis patients, 46% of whom reported that they had donated blood to treat their illness.
The proportion of repeat donors was higher in hemochromatosis patients than in non-health-related donors (83.5% vs 76.5%).
Among repeat donors, nearly 69% of hemochromatosis patients reported donating at least 3 times in the past year, compared with only 49% of non-health-related donors.
The prevalence of unreported deferrable risks for TTVIs was similar in the hemochromatosis patients (2.0%) and the non-health-related subjects (3.1%). The overall prevalence of positive screening test results was also similar (1.3% of hemochromatosis patients vs 1.6% of non-health-related patients).
The research team concludes that, although significant numbers of hemochromatosis patients reported donating blood for therapeutic reasons, the study findings suggest that this population does not present a greater risk to blood safety than other donors.