Risk of transfusion-transmitted syphilis in a tertiary hospital in Nigeria

N Am J Med Sci. 2011 Feb;3(2):78-81. doi: 10.4297/najms.2011.378.


Background: Every year, millions of people are exposed to avoidable, life-threatening risks through the trans-fusion of unsafe blood.

Aim: To determine the sero-prevalence of Syphilis among pre-transfused blood in the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin-City, Nigeria.

Material and methods: The detection of Treponema pallidum IgG/IgM was based on the principle of double antigen sandwich immunoassay, in which purified recombinant antigens are employed sufficiently to identify antibodies to Syphilis. The outcomes of interest included the proportion of Syphilis positive units of pre-transfused donor blood, the source of blood and the total number of units of blood processed in the hospital blood bank.

Results: Two hundred proportionally selected commercial and targeted donors' blood samples were screened for Treponema pallidum, and 8% (n = 16) were found to be positive (95% confidence intervals 9.21-22.79). Syphilis seropositivity was found to be significantly higher in commercial donors (p<0.05). The likely risk of iatrogenic transfusion related Treponema pallidum infection was estimated to be 384 cases/ year at the present rate of utilization of donor blood at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital.

Conclusion: There is a risk of iatrogenic transfusion-transmitted Treponema pallidum in the study hospital. There is, therefore, a need for screening blood donors for circulating antibodies to syphilis infection and other transfusion transmissible infections prior to allogeneic transfusion both in Nigeria and the world over, which may help in avoiding transfusion related Syphilis and its probable long-term effects. Blood that is positive for Syphilis should be discarded, and the affected donor treated appropriately.

Keywords: Syphilis; blood donors; seroprevalence; treponema pallidum.