Glossary

A List of Commonly Used Terms in Blood Banking

Malaria

A very significant parasitic infection seen in many countries around the world, caused by one of the following species of Plasmodium: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and in a few areas, P. knowlesi. Malaria has huge public health implications, causing in the range of 2 million deaths annually worldwide. All forms of malaria are transmitted through the bite of a female mosquito (Anopheles species).

Malaria has clearly been shown to be transmitted through blood transfusion, so blood banks are committed to ensuring that donors are free of disease before donation. All U.S. blood donors are asked about traveling to or living in areas at high risk of malaria. Traveling for more than 24 hours to an area deemed “high-risk” by the Centers for Disease Control (these are known as malaria-endemic areas) results in a one year deferral from blood donation, while those who live in a country with malaria-endemic areas for more than five years are deferred for three years. Someone who actually contracts malaria is deferred for three years after recovery. Such deferrals are deemed necessary due to the prolonged asymptomatic period that can be seen in infected patients, but in most cases, it is probably longer than necessary. The U.S. FDA has published their policy regarding donors at risk for transmitting malaria. Currently, the FDA has not approved a screening laboratory test for detecting malaria in U.S. blood donors, though such tests are used elsewhere.

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