Tick Control Crisis: Is America’s Blood Supply Infected with Lyme Disease?

This time last year, we wrote about how America’s donated blood supply could be contaminated with tick-borne diseases like babesia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Now it looks like the officials have taken notice, too.

The American Red Cross has teamed up with clinical laboratory IMUGEN Inc. to test over 26,000 donated blood specimens. They want to test the effectiveness of different blood screening methods to help filter out donations from those carrying dangerous tick-borne pathogens. Read their press release here.

A particular focus of the testing is tick-borne illness Babesia, which has been transmitted from person to person through blood transfusions in at least 100 reported cases. Two dangerous factors contribute to making inadvertent infection a risk – the fact that there is no FDA approved screening test for babesia, and that many who donate blood could be infected without knowing about it.

“Although some individuals infected with Babesia may become quite ill, other individuals may have minimal or no symptoms,” says Red Cross researcher Susan Stramer, Ph.D, “The latter group may become blood donors and Babesia has been shown to be transmitted through transfused blood.”

IMUGEN Inc. have developed a battery of tests to meet this need.

Dr. Philip Molloy from IMUGEN Inc. explains: “The new investigational tests will include the detections of Babesia DNA and the presence of antibodies to Babesia in the donor blood. The goal is to reduce the potential for transfusion transmitted Babesia infections, thereby improving the safety of the blood supply.”

Another way to improve the safety of the blood supply is for regular blood donors to be especially vigilant about their own health. Preventing tick bites is the most important way to prevent infection and reduce the risk of contaminating the donated blood supply.

You can help reduce the risk of tick bites by spraying your yard for ticks. A yard spray for ticks will get rid of ticks and help keep your property tick free throughout the summer. Talk to a tick control specialist, like one of the experts from Aspenn Environmental Services to discuss your tick control treatment options.