Methylene blue (MB) and its derivatives azure A, B, C and thionine are photoactive and, in principle, are suitable for photodynamic virus inactivation of blood and blood products, such as therapeutic plasma. Methylene blue was selected for plasma decontamination because it is being clinically used and because of its known toxicological and other properties. The standard procedure for photodynamic treatment of single units of fresh plasma involves illumination with visible light at an MB concentration of 1 microM. Polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed that, in addition to model viruses, the bloodborne viruses hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, human immune deficiency virus-1 and probably also the nonenveloped parvovirus B19 are sensitive to MB/light treatment. The procedure is further improved when the fluorescent tubes routinely used for illumination are replaced by more intense light sources, e.g. light-emitting diodes or low-pressure sodium lamps. Surprisingly, the improved virus kill is accompanied by reduced damage to plasma proteins.