QualTex Ready for Next Phase of Hepatitis Testing

July 28, 2014

Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E – affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide and causes acute and chronic liver disease. Nearly 1.4 million people die of hepatitis every year, but awareness, detection and treatment of the disease lags behind that of other communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. World Hepatitis Day, July 28, brings international focus to viral hepatitis and people living with the disease. 

QualTex Laboratories is committed to making sure lifesaving blood products are free of hepatitis as well as other diseases. The lab tests 500,000 samples of whole blood and more than 7 million samples of source plasma per year.

“In our testing, hepatitis is the disease that results in the most positives samples. On a daily basis, we’re going to have at least one positive sample for hepatitis,” said Scott Jones, VP of Scientific Affairs for QualTex.

When a blood donation tests positive for hepatitis, Jones said, additional tests are performed to confirm the result. Donors are then notified and deferred based on all of the test results.

“Regardless of whether it’s for whole blood, source or organ procurement, we perform multiple tests in order to detect possible donations containing Hepatitis viruses,” Jones said.

The laboratory uses nucleic acid testing (NAT) testing to look for the genetic material of the virus, shortening the detection time – which was three weeks in 1995 – to a mere seven days today.

Hepatitis C and B are spread through sharing needles to inject drugs but also can be spread through tattoo parlors that practice poor infection-control practices.

“Hepatitis C is the No. 1 cause for liver transplants in the country,” Jones said. “There’s a vaccine for B, but not for C.”

Get to know the symptoms of Hepatitis B and C:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)

(Source: CDC)

QualTex is also making great strides to ensure that additional testing for hepatitis is available, currently developing an assay to detect hepatitis A as well as E. Whereas testing for hepatitis E is only required for source plasma, the laboratory is ready when the U.S. decides to roll out required testing for whole blood.

“Really, nobody else in the blood industry has developed assays for hepatitis A and E,” Jones said. “QualTex is one of the few organizations that has the capability to test for (these viruses).”

As the industry grows, so does QualTex’s commitment to ensuring the products that go through its doors are safe for the community and ultimately the patients who receive them.

“I don’t think people have any idea what goes into making blood samples ready for transfusion,” Jones said. “There is testing, quality assurance, SOPs, regulation adherence and a lot of other steps that go into making sure the products we supply are safe. And it’s amazing how it all takes place in a short amount of time to make sure the community has the products readily available.”