China says tests on plasma products negative for HIV

Alicia Farmer
February 9, 2019

Immunoglobulins are antibodies produced by white blood cells that are used to treat immune deficiencies caused by illnesses such as leukaemia, hepatitis and rabies.

Thousands of blood plasma products sold by a Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company were reported to be contaminated with HIV this week, although a statement from another state body subsequently presented conflicting information about the status of the samples.

Health officials have been directed to closely monitor the patients that were administered the infected blood plasma, a statement released by the National Health Commission (NHC) said. Although the presence of HIV antibodies in Shanghai Xinxing's products does not definitively mean that the virus itself is present, the possibility can not be completely ruled out.

China is hit regularly by quality-control scandals, fuelling fear over the safety of food and medicines and anger at regulatory lapses.

A representative of Jiangxi Provincial Disease Control Centre told The Beijing News on Wednesday that the contaminated Shanghai Xinxing batch had been reported to the NHC and that it had not yet discovered any cases of patients having contracted HIV.

Intravenous immunoglobulin, a blood product, prepared from the serum of between 1,000 and 15,000 donors per batch is used for the treatment of low immunity that is triggered by conditions like blood cancer and hepatitis.

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Tests on the suspect batch proved negative for HIV, officials said on Wednesday, following a comment by China's National Health Commission that there was a "very low" risk of HIV infection from it.

Public faith in China's health regulators has been shaken by previous scandals. "All the related production and inspection records have been sealed", Xinhua News Agency reported.

Public outrage over such scandals has alarmed the leadership of the ruling Communist Party, moving it to respond more quickly and firmly than in the past, including bringing criminal charges and billion dollar fines.

The ABC approached the China Meheco Group and various government bodies for clarification but was not able to receive a response - most government offices and companies are now closed in China due to Lunar New Year public holiday. This time, thousands of blood plasma treatments are suspected of being contaminated with HIV. Ltd., the country's second-largest blood product manufacturer. According to China's Ministry of Health, over 40 percent of people who gave blood at illegal centers - which numbered in the hundreds - became infected with HIV.

"This was a man-made catastrophe".

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