Requirements for bacterial testing of blood components on a defined quantity as part of routine quality control were introduced in Germany by the National Advisory Committee Blood of the German Federal Ministry of Health in 1997. The philosophy was to establish standardized methods for bacterial testing. Numerous measures to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination were implemented into the blood donation and manufacturing processes between 1999 and 2002. German Blood establishments performed culture-based bacterial testing on random samples of platelet concentrates (PCs), red blood cells (RBCs) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP) and reported data out of the production periods 1998, 2001 and 2005/2006. While the bacterial contamination rate of apheresis PCs remained nearly unchanged, it decreased by 70% for pooled PCs to a rate of 0.158% in the last observation period. Leukocyte-depleted RBCs with diversion of the initial blood volume showed a contamination rate of 0.029% which is significantly lower than that of RBCs without leukocyte depletion and diversion (0.157%). The contamination rate of plasma decreased by 80%. Preventive measures resulted in a significant reduction of bacterial contamination of blood components. Long-term monitoring with standardized methods for bacteria testing supports evaluation of the cumulative effect of contamination reducing measures.

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