“This is just an extra, added step to make sure that they are absolutely perfect to be transfused to our patients,” Norton said. “We’re really taking that extra step to make sure that everybody is safe and doesn’t have exposure to any pathogens.”
The process has been used in Europe for more than a decade, but was only introduced to the U.S. health care system less than three years ago, UNC Blood Donation Center Supervisor Tom Neish said.
He said it took some time to properly introduce the INTERCEPT system to UNC Health Care’s infrastructure, but that UNC adopted it as soon as it could.
“It’s safer for our patients,” Neish said.
Neish said INTERCEPT works by adding a chemical called amotosalen to platelets and exposing them to UV light. The amotosalen binds RNA or DNA, preventing them from ever replicating. Excess amotosalen is removed, and the platelets are ready for transfusion.
“For a normal platelet transfusion, actually with any transfusion, there’s always a risk of a transfusion-transmitted infection, meaning a blood donor who may have some disease or bacteria or virus that can be spread through transfusion,” Neish said. “What this pathogen reduction does is inactivates any possible pathogen, which is bacteria or virus in the platelets.”
Those interested in donating platelets may do so at the UNC Blood Donation Center at the N.C. Cancer Hospital on weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
All platelets donated at the UNC Blood Donation Center remain in the UNC Health Care system and are used for patient transfusions locally.
“The donor process is completely the same, it doesn’t change anything for the donors, they don’t have to worry about anything,” Norton said. “Our patients, now, don’t have to worry about a single thing when they’re getting a platelet transfusion. Again, not that there was a huge, huge risk of infection beforehand, but this just kind of puts them more at ease.”