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Transfusion-related sepsis due to Serratia liquefaciens in the United States


BACKGROUND: Severe, often fatal, transfusion reactions due to bacterial contamination of blood components continue to occur. Serratia liquefaciens, an unusual human pathogen, is a recently recognized potential cause of transfusion-related sepsis.

CASE REPORTS: Five episodes of transfusion-related sepsis and endotoxic shock due to S. liquefaciens were reported to the CDC from July 1992 through January 1999. One episode has been described. The remaining four, all fatal, are described here: three associated with RBC transfusion and one associated with transfusion of platelets. In each instance, the source of contamination could not be found. The implicated units tended to be older (mean RBC age 28 days), and visual discoloration was noted in each RBC unit, although usually in retrospect.

CONCLUSION: S. liquefaciens is an increasingly recognized cause of transfusion-related sepsis and is associated with a high mortality rate. S. liquefaciens can contaminate both RBCs and platelets, but the mechanism(s) of contamination remain unknown. Increased attention to pretransfusion visual inspection may avert the transfusion of some S. liquefaciens-contaminated RBC units. However, more sensitive rapid diagnostic tests are needed to further reduce the risk of transfusion-related sepsis and endotoxic shock.

Roth VR, Arduino MJ, Nobiletti J, Holt SC, Carson LA, Wolf CF, Lenes BA, Allison PM, Jarvis WR

Transfusion 2000 Aug;40(8):931-5

PMID: 10960519