The government of Botswana has confirmed that two major government referral hospitals have mistakenly infused some syphilis infected blood into five patients last week. The patients received blood infected with the virus that causes the STD as a result of the careless mistake of medical officials.
In an emergency press conference speech delivered by the Health Minister Dorcas Makgatho in the capital Gaborone on Thursday, she disclosed that about two weeks ago, eight blood units were erroneously distributed from the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) to be used at the Princess Marina and Scottish Livingstone Memorial Hospitals in Gaborone and Molepolole respectively.
According to the minister, the syphilis infected blood was mistakenly distributed to the hospitals as a result of a sample mix-up caused by detection faults on a blood capture technology system that was recently adopted by the country’s blood bank.
The expensive mistake was only discovered during a routine verification audit performed weekly on all blood units sent to hospitals across the country.
An attempt to recover the syphilis infected blood samples proved abortive as they could only retrieve only three out of the eight units while officers discovered that the remaining five had already been transfused to four patients at Princess Marina and one at the Scottish Livingstone Memorial in Molepolole.
“Somehow during the verification of the system, we detected eight units of blood that were positive for Treponema pallidum virus that can cause syphilis were dispatched to the two health facilities. Unfortunately five units had already been sent to the facilities and transfused, four pints at Princess Marina Hospital and one at the Scottish Livingstone Hospital in Molepolole,” said Makgatho.
The health ministry had taken full responsibility of the situation and has commenced counselling for all the patients who are now infected with syphilis. They will also receive good medical care under close monitoring after the counselling.
“We have tracked the clients and we are already talking to them, counselling them and preparing them for treatment. We will provide all possible medical assistance within our ability. We are putting up structures and mechanisms so that this does not happen again,” she said.
Makgatho also mentioned that none of the patients had shown signs of developing syphilis yet after receiving the syphilis infected blood, adding that there is medical evidence to suggest that they may never develop the disease at all.
At the time of screening, the blood samples were tested and confirmed negative for HIV 172, hepatitis B & C, but were reactive for Treponema pallidum.
Treponema pallidum can only survive for three to five days under cold temperatures of 4 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the blood samples were retained in the cold room for a minimum of eight days, which reduces the chances of survival for the virus and also gives hope that the virus may never be transmitted to the patients.
Reports have it that the faulty blood screening technology was supplied to the Bostwana National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) by a South African company.