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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


SAEZ-ALQUEZAR, Amadeo et al. External serology quality control programs developed in Latin America with the support of PAHO from 1997 through 2000. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2003, vol.13, n.2-3, pp.91-102. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the quality of serological screening of blood donors in five groups of blood banks in Latin America that participated over the 1997-2000 period in an external serology quality control project developed with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). METHODS: With assistance from PAHO, the Serology Authority of the Pro-Blood Foundation/Blood Center of São Paulo (Fundação Pró-Sangue/Hemocentro de São Paulo), of São Paulo, Brazil, carried out the external quality control project and served as its "organizing center" (OC). The OC developed five external serology quality control "programs" (ESQCPs), or external evaluation activities, for the respective groups of participating blood banks. There was one ESQCP each in 1997, 1999, and 2000, and there were two in 1998. In these five programs, the number of participating blood banks ranged from 13 to 21, and the number of countries ranged from 11 to 16. In each program, the OC used a set of 24 blinded sera samples with different reactivities for the various infectious agents for which screening is obligatory in Brazil. Each participating institution in each program received a sera set, to be processed using that institution's standard screening procedures. After returning its results to the OC, each participant received an answer key for the sera set, to be used in evaluating its own performance. All the individual results were kept strictly confidential. At the end of each program, the OC prepared and sent to all the participants a final report that contained information on the overall results from that program. RESULTS: An analysis of the five programs showed that there was a lack of homogeneity among the countries with respect to the strategies and the parameters used in screening blood donors. Few laboratories screened for human T-cell-lymphotropic virus (beginning with the 1997 program, the respective rates were 17%, 27%, 35%, 39%, and 45%). Rates of screening were also low for antibodies to the hepatitis B core antigen (again, beginning with the 1997 program, the rates were 42%, 27%, 39%, 50%, and 60%). There were also important differences with respect to which tests and which combinations of tests were used, making it hard to compare the types of screening done. In the five programs, with the various tests used, the overall rate of false positive results fluctuated around 2%. The highest false positive rate for any of the tests, 4.6%, was for antibodies against the hepatitis C virus. The lowest false positive rate, 0.4%, was for antibodies against Trypanosoma cruzi. CONCLUSIONS: These results show the need for PAHO to continue using these external quality control programs as well as other activities in order to strengthen the procedures for serological screening in blood banks in Latin America, until there is more uniformity in the procedures that the countries use.

Keywords : Bancos de sangre; control de la calidad; serología; programas de evaluación; América Latina.

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