LifeSouth Issues Emergency Plea Amid Plasma Shortage

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MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – People with Type AB blood are rare – only about 4 percent of the population – but they play a vital role in emergencies. Finding help from these donors has gotten even tougher since a regulation change in April.

LifeSouth and other blood centers across the country are facing a severe shortage of AB plasma.

When people donate blood, more than half of what goes into the donation bag is plasma, and only the plasma collected by blood centers can be used for transfusions. For burn victims, patients with bleeding disorders and trauma victims, plasma transfusions can be lifesaving. AB plasma is considered the universal donor for these patients because it can be given to anyone in a case of emergency.

Finding these AB plasma donors got more challenging since April when the AABB (formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks), made an important change to its standards to help prevent transfusion related acute lung injury. This disorder, known as TRALI, is a rare adverse reaction, but it is the most common cause of transfusion-related deaths in the country.

“Our goal is to have a four-week supply of AB plasma. We’re now down to less than week’s supply, and it’s been dropping since April 1,” said LifeSouth Medical Director Dr. Juan Merayo.

In many cases, this ailment is triggered by antibodies fighting against human leukocyte antigens (HLA) that develop in the blood of women who have had babies, and these antibodies can be passed on to patients through plasma transfusions. Since April 1, AABB has mandated that “plasma and whole blood for allogeneic transfusion shall be from males, females who have not been pregnant, or females who have been tested since their most recent pregnancy and results interpreted as negative for HLA antibodies.”

Merayo said, “Published data shows that approximately 11 percent of donors with a history of only one pregnancy have tested positive for HLA antibodies.” Many blood centers, including LifeSouth, are working toward implementing screening procedures to allow the use of plasma from female donors with low risk of having HLA antibodies. But until those changes can be made, only male AB plasma can be used, cutting the supply of an already rare blood component in half.

“Many people with Type AB blood don’t realize how vital they are, and now it is even more important for men who are Type AB to donate,” Merayo explained.

Merayo said the restriction on male-only plasma for transfusions has been in place for Type A, Type B and Type O plasma since 2007, but because those blood types are more prevalent, it didn’t trigger a shortage. The change for Type AB was delayed because of its importance in emergencies, and it is less prevalent in the donor population.

Merayo said he hopes hospitals will review their emergency transfusion procedures and massive transfusion protocols to help deal with the change and prospect of the growing shortage. He said some hospitals are already exploring alternatives to always relying on AB plasma for emergencies.

Until new testing equipment comes online, personnel are trained and new screening procedures are implemented, more male AB donors are needed.

“These male AB donors are needed now more than ever,” Merayo said.

Plasma can be donated at any of these area locations in Madison County:

  • American Red Cross, 1003 West Main, Huntsville
  • American Red Cross Madison County Chapter, Washington Street, Huntsville
  • LifeSouth Community Blood Center North Alabama, 101 Silvey Road, Huntsville Hospital Donor Center
  • Talecris Plasma Resources, Inc., 2420 Jordan Lane, Huntsville
  • Baby Secrets, 8000 Madison Boulevard Suite D, Madison
  • LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, 8190 Madison Blvd., Madison

OR you can donate plasma at any of the 7 mobile blood buses in the area, no appointment needed.


  • ill_iterate

    Yet people like me with Hereditary Hemochromatosis are only allowed to give blood by prescription. Most of us must give blood every 3 months for our entire lives. Our blood is no different than anyone else’s. You can’t catch a genetic disorder. Just another backward Alabama law. And since I’m on the subject – I’m not allowed to give to the American Red Cross either because according to their bylaws I am “profiting” by giving blood to them, because I am saved a doctor’s visit.

  • Cynthia Ziegler

    Alabama truly has the most backward laws :( It’s a shame. We came from Europe in 1986. We are not allowed to “GIVE” blood because we were in Europe over 20 years ago.

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