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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City's Blood Not at Risk, Official Says

The director of the Federal Blood Center on Thursday forcefully rejected media reports that Moscow's blood supply had been tainted by blood taken from an HIV-positive donor in Voronezh.

"No plasma from the above-mentioned donor or components of this donor's blood wound up in Moscow. At Moscow's blood transfusion center there is no signed agreement with Voronezh about the provision of donor blood to the capital," center director Yevgeny Zhiburt said, Interfax reported.

Zhiburt further sought to calm fears by emphasizing that blood from the HIV-positive donor, identified as a 35-year-old woman in Voronezh, was not used in its whole form but was processed into the protein albumin, destroying the HIV virus.

Albumin production involves pasteurization, or heating at 60 degrees Celsius for 10 hours. The HIV virus is destroyed after 30 minutes at this temperature.

"Never anywhere on the planet have there been registered any cases of HIV infection through albumin transfusion," Zhiburt said.

The doctor was responding to alarm caused by an article in Thursday's Kommersant based on reports that the Voronezh Regional Blood Transfusion Center had illegally sold blood products to private medical supply firms in Moscow. Ambiguity in the article about the distinction between albumin and whole blood prompted numerous Internet and radio news sources to report that HIV-infected blood from Voronezh had contaminated Moscow's blood supply, citing Kommersant.

Albumin, a protein that helps blood cells bind to water, is used chiefly for volume replacement after heavy blood loss or during surgery.

A number of other medical officials emphasized that the risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusions was extremely low.

"The likelihood of HIV infection in our country is one in 1 million blood transfusions," Federal AIDS Center chief Vadim Pokrovsky said Thursday, Interfax reported. "The risk is hundreds of times lower than the risk of getting run over by a car."

Nikolai Filatov, Moscow's chief medical officer, said that due to the theoretical possibility of blood from Voronezh reaching Moscow, the city's blood supply was being checked.

Zhiburt also responded to widespread media reports that a 21-year-old Voronezh mother recently found to be HIV-positive was infected by a blood transfusion from the 35-year-old donor. Voronezh city prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the case, but the doctor stressed that only a molecular genetic analysis could demonstrate precisely how the 21-year-old woman was infected.

"We have two women who have HIV infections. That is a terrible tragedy. But it has not been shown that this infection truly came from donated blood," Zhiburt said.