Late last year, the FDA approved Cerus’s INTERCEPT blood system for platelets and plasma. This system reduces the risk of transmitting blood-borne pathogens through platelets and plasma. INTERCEPT accomplishes this by inserting molecules into the DNA of pathogens that makes them incapable of replicating. While the pathogen still exists, it can’t replicate, and therefore can’t cause disease in the recipient. This is useful for well-known agents such as HIV or hepatitis as well as emerging diseases such as Chikungunya. Since it targets DNA, it would also neutralize undiscovered pathogens.
One potential downside of using this system is potentially increasing the cost of blood products for hospitals. Also, there is a bit of risk involved with being the so-called “first kid on the block” when using any new technology. While the FDA approval process is rigorous, unforeseen complications can arise with widespread use. Since the FDA approval, several blood centers—Delmarva, SunCoast, and Bonfils—have signed agreements to use this this system to ensure the functional sterility of their blood products. It will be interesting to see how widely this new technology is adopted and if blood products are made safer than with current methodologies.
If you’d like to read papers about this technology, you can find them here.