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New test to curb transfusion side-effects for patients with inherited blood disorders

The NHS is set to introduce a new genetic blood-matching test for thousands living with sickle-cell disease or thalassemia that could reduce painful side-effects of transfusion treatments.

As it marks its 75th year, the NHS is to become the first healthcare system in the world to provide blood group genotyping – a detailed DNA analysis of each patient’s blood group – to more accurately match those in need of transfusions to donated blood.

The landmark new programme, delivered in partnership by NHS England and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), will help ensure patients receive the best treatment for them, reducing the risk/impact of reactions to donor blood and the development of antibodies that attack the donor blood cells.

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‘An important part of our role is providing donated blood for patients who need transfusions but our work goes much beyond that, providing world class scientific services to make blood transfusions even safer,’ said Dr Andrea Harmer. NHS Blood and Transplant’s Genomics Programme Director.

‘The new genotyping technology being used in this project was developed by an international consortium of which NHSBT is one of the founding members. It received critical support from the NIHR.’

Up to a fifth of patients (17%) can experience bad side-effects after a transfusion because of inadequately matched blood, with the main source of blood for transfusions being people with European ancestry.

These side effects can lead to transfusion reactions and make it difficult to find enough blood for future transfusions. The effects of this can be severe, leading to a patient’s condition deteriorating and in some very rare cases it can lead to death.

 ‘This fantastic new programme will significantly transform care for people living with sickle cell disorder and thalassemia – by using blood group genotyping, harmful side effects of transfusions will be reduced, hugely boosting patients’ quality of life,’ said

‘These conditions can be deeply debilitating and we know the barriers that this patient group can often face when accessing care – as this new programme shows, we are determined to continue to make improvements and do everything we possibly can to help these patients to lead normal lives.’