3 crore silent carriers of Thalassemia in India, know what is this disease

Despite rising cases of thalassemia, lack of infrastructure, especially in rural areas, prevents patients from getting safe blood. However, some hospitals in cities have included NAT screening in their workflow.

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Anubha Taneja Mukherjee: In India thalassemia There are about 1,00,000 patients of this along with 10,000 to 12,000 children every year. blood disorder (blood disorders) are born with. National Health Mission A recent survey conducted by National Health Organization (NHM) states that around 30 million people in India are silent carriers of this condition. Most of these carriers have the potential to pass on thalassemia to their children.

Safe blood is needed to meet the need for frequent blood transfusions. This is because many thalassemia patients are prone to blood-borne diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis, syphilis and malaria. These are also called transfusion transmissible infections (TTI). Therefore, it is important to adopt structural reforms to ensure that blood transfusion is safe and disease free.

Advanced Test for Safe Blood

Blood collection, storage and use of donated blood requires certain procedures to be followed. Testing donated blood to prevent HIV and other blood-borne diseases is important, preventing deaths due to its absence, and reducing the burden on the healthcare system.

Haemovigilance involves monitoring the entire process from blood collection to testing of donated blood and follow-up with the recipient. The Haemovigilance Program of India (HvPI) was launched in 2012 to ensure safe blood transfusion practices. The program became a part of the International Heomovigilance Network (IHN) in 2014. At present there are 226 blood banks and private and government hospitals registered under this program in India.

Today, due to advanced technology, a more sensitive test called nucleic acid test (NAT) is available to effectively check the presence of virus or bacteria in the blood. Compared to traditional enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) techniques, NAT is less time consuming, making it important for increasing the safety of blood.

Thalassemia Patients Advocacy Group (TPAG) in collaboration with Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) organized a roundtable to discuss various aspects of blood safety. During this discussion, health care experts shared facts and their perspective to ensure safe blood transfusion and bridge the gap in national policy.

Safe blood for all in need

Despite the high burden of thalassemia cases, lack of infrastructure, especially in rural areas, prevents patients from getting safe blood. While some hospitals in cities have incorporated NAT screening into their workflow, the practice is yet to reach rural areas.

It is imperative to ensure that every patient with thalassemia has access to the right care and safe blood. Therefore, India should revisit its blood regulatory framework to incorporate the latest technology to prevent deaths due to TTIs.

Government, NGOs and private stakeholders need to work together to make safe blood available to all in need. Voluntary blood donation and standardized screening technology should be implemented as part of a comprehensive national policy, and public-private partnerships can be a step towards achieving this goal.

(The writer is member secretary, Thalassemia Patients Advocacy Group)

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