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Blood Product Donation and Severe Allergies – New Questions Raised

— April 8, 2015

As any subscriber to FDA notifications may be aware,  a great number of warnings issued involve undisclosed allergens  [You can subscribe to these notifications for free here].  Severe allergies may be life-threatening, can develop suddenly, and can even be inexplicable.  But what if you suddenly develop severe allergies that are not even your own?  Can our bodies temporarily adopt the severe immunologic systemic response of anaphylaxis as a result of an infusion of donated products from someone with such reactions?

Mashable   and many other news media outlets are reporting on an interesting study published by the Canadian Medical Journal Association (available here, but not for free) where a child who received a transfusion of blood platelets experienced severe allergic reactions, something he had not done before, which his doctors suspect may have been temporarily acquired from the blood product donor.  The article mentions other known cases of allergies passed on by donors, and the researchers involved were able to confirm that the donor of the platelets did, indeed, have the allergies later found in the child. This donor was subsequently excluded as a donor by the Canadian provider of the blood products.

Will this cause donors with severe allergies to be excluded more widely from donating blood and other products?  The National Institute for Health (NIH) states that donors may not donate if experiencing severe allergies but the specific limitations vary by donor centers.  The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology provides a short summary of arguments in favor of and opposing blood donation by severely allergic individuals here.

Indeed, a cursory review of the literature reveals that similar instances of transferred allergies have also been seen in recipients of organ transplants.  As someone with severe identified allergies as well as repeated idiopathic anaphylaxis,  it appears that my potential suitability as an organ donor upon death is questionable and that  my recent registration to be a bone marrow donor may be questionable at best.  At the same time, the need for blood, organ, and bone marrow donors continues to grow.




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