Bloody row spills out at national blood bank

October 2017 Standardmedia; The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service (KNBTS) is incensed by reports that part of blood its bank is contaminated with HIV and syphilis.

The report published three weeks ago in a foreign journal shows 6.2 per cent of donated blood had high levels of HIV, with as high as 15 per cent in some counties.

The authors of the report, published in the Journal of Blood Disorders and Transfusion of India, are said to have had access KNBTS data.

They had also analysed part of the blood collected from 32 of the 47 counties last year. Other than HIV and syphilis, the report also showed significant contamination of donated blood with hepatitis.

In a written response to our enquiries over the publication, KNBTS director Margaret Oduor termed the report alarmist and sensational.

“This research was not sanctioned by KNBTS and therefore we disown the content of the article in its entirety,” Dr Oduor said.

She said only about 0.5 per cent of blood collected annually is contaminated with HIV. “It is possible the authors of the report have other interests unknown to us,” Oduor said, noting only about 0.4 per cent of the annual blood collection is contaminated with syphilis.

But hours after The Standard made inquiries over the report, two of its authors disowned it. They said it should be withdraw saying its findings are inaccurate.

Dr Oduor said they had allowed the authors and employees of a health organisation, mHealth Kenya, access to their blood banks and data of at least 20,230 donors.

mHealth Kenya provides links between public and private to support, improve, optimise and sustain provision of quality health services.

Blood donations

The organisation was supposed to help KNBTS, through its blood bank, to get blood donations through an initiative called Text4Life. The plan was funded by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States.

“Our work was to help the blood bank utilise mobile phone platform in communicating with its donors countrywide,” mHealth Kenya Limited CEO Cathy Mwangi said.

And now, Oduor is angry that mHealth employers, three of whom participated in authoring the damning report, may have used their data illegally. Also, she said the officials published the report without the consent of KNBTS.

“I stand by the results we published as a true reflection of the quality of donated blood to KNBTS within the study period,” lead author Gerald Mahuro said. He is a former employee of mHealth.

Authors claimed they had permission from KNBTS blood bank to publish the report. “Being employees of mHealth Kenya Ltd, authors of the report had permission, from KNBTS, to use the data in the publication,” says the study.

However, on Saturday afternoon, the authors wrote to the editor of the Indian journal requesting that the report be withdrawn temporarily because it had been submitted non-procedurally.

Dr Mwangi and her employee N Kipkorir said they were included as co-authors without their input or consent.

“Mahuro published data he took away with him upon his dismissal,” she said in a letter to the editor of the journal.

However, Mahuro told The Standard he stood by the report and maintained the data he used was accurate even the procedure for publishing may not have been followed. The fourth author and the most qualified on the subject matter, Peter Gichangi of the University of Nairobi, said the data as presented in their paper was plausible.

Prof Gichangi is also the Country Director at International Centre for Reproductive Health Kenya (ICRHK), which is affiliated to the Ghent University of Belgium.

He is also at the centre of another controversy where UK’s University of Manchester is fighting with Kenyatta National Hospital over ownership of a cervical cancer treatment developed in Kenya.

However, this is not the only independent study showing high rates of infectious agents in donated blood in Kenya.

A study published last year by a team led by Magdaline Wairimu Kamande of Kenya Methodist University showed 5.2 per cent of blood at KNBTS bank at the Nyeri Centre was contaminated with HIV.

Kamande’s study, appearing in the IOSR Journal of Pharmacy, was said to have been approved by KNBTS. An audit of KNBTS laboratories in April showed the agency was performing poorly as far as safety was concerned.

But Odour assured Kenyans they effective screening systems and that all donated blood is safe.



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