First case of malaria caused by blood transfusion

Cases of maladia caused by blood transfusions are very rare globally Keystone Archive

Switzerland has reported its first case of malaria transmitted through a blood transfusion. The Federal Health Office has confirmed a 70-year-old hospital patient died in 1999 after contracting the fever two weeks after an operation.

This content was published on June 26, 2001 - 13:44

The Swiss Red Cross said on Tuesday it had been able to identify the source of the contaminated blood. The donor, a 30-year-old man from Cameroon, was identified from a list of 16 suspects.

He was carrying the malaria parasite, plasmodium falciparum, in his bloodstream. Genetic analysis showed the parasite was the same as the one found in the deceased man's blood.

Blood donors are not routinely tested for malaria given its low incidence in Switzerland. They are however required to fill out a questionnaire.

When questioned by the Red Cross afterwards, the donor from Cameroon recalled he might have suffered from malaria as a teenager. There are doubts though the parasite would have survived as long in his bloodstream.

The man had not visited his homeland in the six years before the fatal incident.

The Federal Health Office believes he could have caught what is called "airport malaria". The donor lived near Paris' Roissy airfield for two years.

Transmission of malaria through blood transfusion is extremely rare in other countries, according to the Swiss health authorities.

The authorities currently recommend laboratory tests for blood donors suspected of carrying malaria, even though they are not 100 per cent reliable.

swissinfo with agencies

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