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Five ‘erroneously’ infected with syphilis

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The Botswana government has confirmed that five patients at two major government referral hospitals were erroneously infected with syphilis last week after being infused with blood samples which were infected with the virus that causes the sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Addressing an impromptu press conference in the capital Gaborone on Thursday, Health minister Dorcas Makgatho said eight blood units were erroneously distributed two weeks ago from the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) to the Princess Marina and Scottish Livingstone Memorial Hospitals in Gaborone and Molepolole respectively.

The minister said the infected blood was mistakenly distributed to the hospitals after a sample mix-up caused by detection faults on a blood capture technology system that was recently adopted by the blood bank.

The costly error was uncovered during a weekly verification audit of all blood units sent to hospitals across the country.

A follow up operation to trace the infected samples recovered only three of the units while officers discovered that the other five had already been transfused to four patients at Princess Marina and one at the Scottish Livingstone Memorial in Molepolole, 40km south of the capital Gaborone.

“Somehow during the verification of the system, we detected eight units of blood that were positive for Treponema pallidum virus that can cause syphilis were dispatched to the two health facilities. Unfortunately five units had already been sent to the facilities and transfused, four pints at Princess Marina Hospital and one at the Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole,” said Makgatho.

Further, she said the health ministry had taken full responsibility for exposing the infected patients to syphilis. All the patients who received the infected blood have been traced and are being counselled prior to receiving medical care under close monitoring.

“We have tracked the clients and we are already talking to them, counselling them and preparing them for treatment. We will provide all possible medical assistance within our ability. We are putting up structures and mechanisms so that this does not happen again,” she said.

However, Makgatho said none of the affected patients had shown signs of developing syphilis yet, but added that there was plenty of clinical evidence to suggest that they may never develop the disease at all.

“The samples of the eight pints were confirmed negative for HIV 172, hepatitis B & C, but were reactive for Treponema pallidum only at the time of screening. Treponema pallidum can only survive under cold temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius for three to five days. The blood units issued stayed in the cold room for a minimum of eight days, which significantly lowers chances that the disease could have been transmitted to the patients,” she said.

The faulty blood screening technology was reportedly acquired by the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) from a South African company recently.

[Source: African News Agency]

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