KARACHI– Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) has introduced a Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) technology for detecting and decreasing the risk of blood transmitted diseases, such as, HIV, HBV, HCV, WNV, Parvovirus B19 and HAV.
Vice Chancellor, DUHS, Prof Dr. Saeed Qureshi inaugurated public sector’s first Blood Bank, in order to adopt the Real time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based NAT technology.
Pro-Vice Chancellor, DUHS, Prof Dr. Muhammad Masroor, Prof Dr. Shaheen Sharafat, Dr. Shaheen Kusar, Dr. Asif Qureshi, Country Manger for Roshan Pakistan Dr. Qadeer Raza, Director Abdul Qayyum, Mr. Maqsood Ahmed Khan, Ms. Sabira and others were present on this occasion.
Prof Saeed Qureshi discussed regarding the crucial step taken by DUHS, to significantly contribute in reducing the rate of transmittable diseases like, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Hepatitis B virus (HBV), Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and West Nile Virus (WNV) in Pakistan.
According to Prof Qureshi, NAT technology is world’s latest and safest technology available, which will help in minimizing the window period of such diseases. This technology also offers a higher sensitivity rate for detecting viral infections and provides safe blood transfusions. The traditional method for blood screening, also known as Immunoassay, or more commonly as the Serology test, detects antibodies to viruses or viral antigens. Thus, if there are no antibodies present, these simple traditional tests may not highlight or trigger a positive test reaction, especially if the patient gets tested during the window period.
Window period is the duration when the donor is exposed to a virus.
Until the antibodies are produced against the virus, production and risk of infection in donated blood can be missed. That is, if the blood is donated during the window period, when the virus and its anti-bodies are not detectable by either of the old traditional screening tests but, the infectious agent may be present in the blood of the donor, this can infect other patients and the disease can spread, increasing its range.
The Nucleic acid testing (NAT) is the most advanced tool which uses Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology to detect the presence of viral infections including the DNA and RNA viruses by simply screening the whole blood and plasma samples. This test is performed on donated blood and other blood components that may contain HIV, HCV and other such blood transfusion transmitted diseases.
Approximately 40% of the 92 million donations of blood around the world are not tested and screened with NAT technology. The under developed countries are most likely to use contaminated blood due to inadequate serology testing and higher disease prevalence.
This technology is beneficial as it takes about only a week to detect HCV – RNA after infection, while it takes about two months to detect such viruses through simple serology testing.
The US blood banks introduced NAT technology for detecting HIV and HCV in the late 1990s to increase blood safety and transmission. Today, US have been able to supply 100 per cent safe blood, screened with NAT.
Currently, countries like Thailand, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and India have been using NAT technology, while a number of countries in Europe and Asia have also adopted this technology including Australia, Germany, France, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa.
NAT technology is being used since 1985 and is now becoming a standard with the growing trend and common practice in the blood and plasma industries round the Globe.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has encouraged the blood banks to adopt this technology, by licensing it.
Many countries are still on their way to introducing this technology, in order to help protect their people from blood transfusion transmitted diseases.
This technology has been used in Pakistan since the early 2011.