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Fears FTA brings in contaminated blood

AAP | 13 December 2006

Fears FTA brings in contaminated blood

By Jade Bilowol

ROAD crash victims and haemophiliacs were at risk of contracting blood-borne diseases such as HIV under the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA), an academic warned today.

Queensland University of Technology haematologist Trevor Forster said the risk stemmed from the potential importation from the US of blood products subject to less strict donation guidelines than Australia’s.

Despite the FTA already being signed, the states and territories are yet to sign off on a clause about the supply of blood products that would enable US companies to tender to carry out blood fractionation services for Australia.

Such services involve breaking blood up into its individual components and are currently done by Australian company CSL Limited.

Dr Forster said after the Australian Red Cross collected blood - under the strictest blood donation criteria in the world - any blood not used was sent to CSL for processing into safe blood products.

But, he warned, if a US company toppled CSL because Australia’s market was too small to maintain numerous blood suppliers, infected blood could seep into Australia.

"They’d be under no obligation to supply us back the blood that we supply. It would go into their general supply and what we’d get back would be from that supply,’’ Dr Forster said.

"In the US, more than half of the blood supply comes from paid donors and as a result people who need the money such as drug addicts often donate and can do so in ’window’ periods - immediately after infection - when diseases can’t be detected.

"All they do is make a false declaration about their activities.’’

He said a number of blood fractionation companies also recruited donors from the Third World.

"A lot of it (comes from) South America, the Philippines and India where the control over the collection and over the donors is much looser. It’s a risk,’’ he said.

"All the blood is tested, but for all the important viral diseases - HIV, and different strains of hepatitis such as B and C - there’s that window period after infection where the disease cannot be detected and in Australia we cover that, but overseas we have no control of that.’’