Blood donors with hemochromatosis, a disorder in which iron accumulates in organs and body tissues, do not pose a greater risk to blood safety than other donors, according to the results of a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Hemochromatosis patients are treated with periodic phlebotomies or "blood letting" to remove excess iron from their body. Because these patients benefit medically and financially by giving blood, there has been concern that they might donate despite having infectious disease risk factors and that their blood might be less safe. As a result, FDA regulations have not promoted blood donation from hemochromatosis patients.
"Hemochromatosis patients had no more risk of transmitting viral infections than did other donors. This finding should help guide future decisions on blood donations by these patients. If people with hemochromatosis qualify as donors then that could potentially have a significant impact on the national blood supply," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. Current FDA regulations for blood donation do not prohibit blood from hemochromatosis patients.