With Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAT) now having shortened the window period to detect HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses to seven days, the test should be made mandatory for blood banks to ensure blood safety, says Sunil K. Mathai, secretary of IMA Blood Bank.

Blood banks often fail to introduce the test in their systems as it is expensive. However, IMA Blood Bank office-bearers say the additional cost of Rs.800 is incurred only when blood is obtained from a donor for transfusion. The District General Hospital has been sourcing blood from the IMA Blood Bank after it introduced NAT testing last year.

“The Regional Blood Bank at Aluva has been rooting for NAT testing for long,” says N. Vijayakumar, medical officer in-charge.

Senior officials in the health directorate say no move has been taken to make NAT testing mandatory.

The IMA Blood Bank has also offered to introduce NAT testing facility in all private blood banks. The facility can publish test results online within 12 hours. Hospitals now just need to send blood samples to the Blood Bank, says Dr. Mathai. However, private hospitals have not yet sent samples for testing.

Though the test is not yet part of a national policy, States such as Gujarat have introduced NAT testing, says Dr. Mathai. This was after the State reported five cases of HIV transmission through blood transfusion.

The Eliza test, in use for the past three decades, was good considering nothing better was available, he says. It screens HIV within a window period of 45 days.

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