HOUSTON. Every three seconds someone in the world needs a blood transfusion. White blood cells (leukocytes) in donor blood can cause serious medical complications, as many viruses (including cytomegalovirus, Human T-cell Lymphotrophic virus and Epstein-Barr virus) and bacteria (including Yersinia) are harboured in leukocytes. Blood donors are typically screened for only a few of these contaminants.

Leukocytes in transfused blood can also suppress the recipient's immune system. Immunosuppression may lead to multiple organ failure, increased risk of post-surgical infection and diminished prospect of cure for patients with certain malignancies. Refractoriness (resistance) occurs when a patient reacts to leukocytes in donated blood and creates antibodies. This immune response, known as 'alloimmunization', can cause resistance to subsequent platelet transfusions; patients do not respond to the transfusion and so have an increased risk of spontaneous bleeding. Febrile non-hemolytic transfusion reaction is characterised by a 1°C or more rise in body temperature within...

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