BACKGROUND: Bacterial contamination of blood for transfusion is rarely investigated in low-income countries. We determined the contamination rate of blood products in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: In this prospective observational study, blood products in one rural and two urban hospitals (paediatric and general) contained a satellite sampling bag by which blood was sampled for culture in a blood culture bottle (4 mL) and on an agar-coated slide to estimate colony forming units (CFU/mL). Bacteria were identified with biochemical tests and MALDI-TOF (Bruker). Exposure time >10 °C was assessed on a subset of blood products.
RESULTS: In total, 1.4% (41 of 2,959) of blood products were contaminated with 48 bacterial isolates. Skin (e.g., Staphylococcus spp.) and environmental (e.g., Bacillus spp.) bacteria predominated (97.8% of 45 isolates identified). Bacterial counts were ≤10 3 CFU/mL. Contamination rates for the urban paediatric, urban general and rural hospitals were 1.6%, 2.4% and 0.3%, respectively (p=0.004). None of the following variables was significantly associated with contamination: (i) donor type (voluntary 1.6%, family 1.2%, paid 3.9%); (ii) type of blood product (red cells 1.6%, whole blood 0.6%); (ii) season (dry season 2.4%, rainy season 1.8%); (iv) age of blood product (contaminated 8 days vs non-contaminated 6 days); and (v) exposure time >10 °C (median for contaminated and non-contaminated blood reached maximum test limit of 8 hours).
DISCUSSION: A bacterial contamination rate of 1.4% of whole blood and red cells is similar to results from high-income countries. Implementation of feasible risk-mitigation measures is needed.