The state health secretary, Anshu Prakash stated recently that the Delhi Government will soon introduce ‘Nucleic Acid Amplification Test-NAT’ in hospitals in the capital to check the safety of donated blood.
He added that this step would reduce the 'window period' required to identify life-threatening infections like hepatitis B and C or HIV. In addition, he stated that all blood banks in the city will be linked up through computers, a project which has been stalled for almost five years.
To begin with, the facility will be available at INJP hospital and GTB hospital. Dr. Bharat Singh, Director of State Blood Transfusion Council stated that the modalities for implementation of the new system are underway.
Donated blood gets tested for malaria, syphilis, hepatitis-Band C and HIV. While the earlier Elisa test for this detection costs about Rs.100 per donor, NAT will cost almost Rs. 900. Screening of donated blood was made mandatory in 2000 by the Union Government given the high occurrence of hepatitis and HIV cases in India.
Some hospitals in Delhi like AIIMS and RML which come under the purview of the center, few private hospitals and blood banks being run by NGOs already have the NAT for testing the safety of the donated blood.
Senior health officials sated that current practices used to identify viruses is not effective especially during the 'window period'. Detection in window period is essential since the donor might donate blood while being unaware of a situation of rapid multiplication of viruses in his/her body.
Existing standards of checking safety of donated blood using Elisa test continues to permit a 'window period' between viral infection and its detection. Hence, hospitals and blood banks in India need to use the new technology called NAT in place of the existing Elisa test.