Despite efforts to discourage them, drug abusers who are infected with the AIDS virus are still selling blood plasma to commercial collection centers, and more needs to be done to stop them, a study says.
But a spokesman for plasma collection centers says they are doing a good job of excluding such donors and keeping the AIDS infection out of blood products. These include clotting factor used by hemophiliacs and immune globulin taken by people who need protection against hepatitis.``The current products that are out there are considered to be 100 percent safe,' said James Reilly, spokesman for the American Blood Resources Association, the trade group representing the approximately 400 U.S. for-profit plasma-collection centers.
``There are no known cases of (AIDS) transmission from products currently on the market,' he said in an interview.
The study found that more than 23 percent of 2,921 intravenous drug abusers contacted in the Baltimore area in 1988 and 1989 said they had sold plasma or donated blood after they began injecting illegal drugs.
Tests revealed 24.1 percent of those contacted were infected with HIV, the AIDS virus, said researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore. They reported their findings in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
The AIDS virus is believed to be spread mainly through sexual intercourse, shared hypodermic needles and from infected mothers to their babies before or during birth.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says 126,127 adult AIDS cases had been reported as of March 31, including 26,883 cases among IV drug users and 8,711 cases among homosexual IV drug users. Transfusion associated AIDS cases total 3,040.
Since March 1985, all U.S. blood and blood components have been screened to detect the presence of AIDS virus, the researchers noted. In addition, plasma from commercial centers is subjected to processing designed to kill the AIDS virus, but in isolated cases in other countries, the virus has survived in treated plasma products, said Dr. Kenrad E. Nelson, lead researcher.
``This does not mean the (U.S.) blood supply is unsafe,' Nelson said. ``But the fact is that there have been cases where hemophiliacs have gotten infected despite screening and heat treatment. I think donor exclusion is vital.'