Nigeria seems to be dragging its feet in a world where some countries are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) for blood sorting and fitting due to the challenges associated with recipient outcomes following blood transfusion.
Through Haem Match project, countries like the United Kingdom are using (AI) to streamline the transfusion process via genetic analysis and improve the categorisation of red blood cells (RBCs) into types.
This aids in the better allocation of precisely matched blood units to patients with complicated transfusion needs.
The use of AI is also being investigated by Canadian Blood Services to measure the deformability of RBCs and prioritise the allocation of cells with increased deformability to patients who require regular transfusions.
One of the challenges suggested to be linked to recipient outcome is donor sex, with blood from female donors, including women who had previously been pregnant, linked to higher mortality in men receiving the transfusion.
However, a new randomised study done in three academic sites in Canada showed no difference in overall survival between two groups —in which 8719 patients were randomly assigned to receive blood from a male donor (5190) or a female donor (3529), according to the Lancet Haematology.
The study aimed at decreasing the frequency of transfusions for people who need them regularly through the test of safety and persistence of laboratory-grown RBCs is driven by AI.
It says much of the evidence for the previous association was based on observational studies.
While this trial reassures that donor sex does not affect outcomes following a transfusion, many factors, however, play a role and are particularly problematic for patients receiving regular transfusions.
They could be at risk of negative outcomes, such as the development of antibodies to red blood cell (RBC) antigens leading to haemolytic transfusion reactions, the health platform said.
“These risks can be reduced by looking beyond the classic, and relatively simplistic, ABO blood group system to the hundreds of additional RBC antigens. Currently, only a few additional antigens are tested for in a labour-intensive manual process by blood services,” it stated.
The hope is that the laboratory-grown cells will survive longer because they can be transfused fresh, which could revolutionise transfusions for patients with complex transfusion needs or those with rare blood groups.
For now, and even if laboratory-grown cells become a feasible option for some patient groups in the future, a robust blood supply still relies on the generosity of people who donate their blood.
Nigeria’s dire shortage
One of the aims of World Blood Donor Day is to encourage more people to become donors, particularly people from minority ethnic groups who tend to be under-represented in blood banks.
With advances in transfusion practices hopefully improving outcomes for patients with complex needs, a robust and safe blood supply still relies on countries adopting WHO recommendations to use a system based on free voluntary donations, which all countries should be encouraged to adopt.
The best performance of Nigeria has been about 1.5 million units of blood per annum, according to the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS), a figure which some experts consider an overestimation.
More than 2.5 million pints of blood are unavailable when required for medical intervention in Nigeria and about four million pints of blood are required yearly to meet the transfusion requirement of the country, according to experts
Lagos faces up to 44 percent shortage of blood supply yearly when the demand is at least 200,000 units, Bodunrin Osikomaiya, executive secretary, Lagos State Blood Transfusion Service (LSBTS) told BusinessDay.
The service was only able to meet up with about 56 percent of demand in 2021, 103, 000 units of blood collected through a total of 151 regulated blood banks.
The World Health Organisation data as of 2019 shows nearly 20 percent of all global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria. One in 22 Nigerian women has a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum, or post-abortion, compared with one in 4900 in most developed countries.
Kazadi Mulombo, medical doctor and WHO representative in Nigeria said this year’s campaign slogan “Give blood, give plasma, share life, share often”, underlines the role every person can play by regularly giving the valuable gift of blood to create a safe and sustainable supply of blood and products that can be available to needy patients.
“As our hope of tomorrow, I urge the youth to join the blood drive in Nigeria and donate blood to close the existing gap,” Mulombo said.