BETHESDA, MarylandThe search for the ideal blood substitute continues, although with less urgency now that the nation’s blood supply is safer than it has ever been. None of the products currently being developed and nearing licensure can truly be considered substitutes for blood, according to Harvey Klein, MD.
Some of these products may, however, "have a niche use, particularly during surgery, where the endpoint will be to decrease or eliminate the use of allogeneic blood, but they are not going to replace either transfusion or recombinant human erythropoietin(Drug information on erythropoietin) for a cancer patient during chemotherapy," he said.
"Nothing is going to replace blood, red blood cells, or erythropoietin in the near future."
Dr. Klein is chief, Transfusion Medicine, at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Maryland, and professor of medicine and pathology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
The risk of HIV infection through blood is one in every two million units of transfused blood. "The risk of hepatitis infection is also very low," Dr. Klein said, "probably less common than 1 in 180,000 units for hepatitis B, and now with direct assays for the virus, around 1 for every two million units transfused for hepatitis C."
"Blood is safer than it’s ever been before, but there remain a substantial number of complications," Dr. Klein noted. "One in every 12,000 units of blood in the United States is given to the wrong patient. I find that an astonishing statistic."