Prevalence, pattern and clinical implications of transfusion transmissible viral infections among paediatric haemophiliacs in northern Nigeria

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Background: Scarcity of FVIII concentrate compels caregivers in poor countries to use multiple transfusions of fresh whole blood (FWB), fresh frozen plasma and cryoprecipitate for managing haemophilia A. FWB is the most frequently transfused blood product due to ease of production and its ability to simultaneously stop active bleeding and treat anaemia. Iron deficiency anaemia is common among haemophiliacs in poor tropical countries such as Nigeria, due to the combined effects of bleeding, malnutrition, and haemorrhagic parasitic diseases. Multiple FWB transfusion is usually initiated at local sub-tertiary hospitals before eventual referral to tertiary hospitals. The Nigerian blood transfusion service is underdeveloped, donor screening is rudimentary and transfusion safety is poor. The prevalence of transfusion transmissible viral infections (TTVIs), including HIV, and hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV), is therefore predicted to be high among Nigerian haemophiliacs. Aims: To determine prevalence and pattern of TTVIs (HIV, HBV, HCV infections) among paediatric haemophiliacs who have received multiple FWB transfusions in Nigeria. Materials and methods: Retrospective analyses of demographic and clinical data, disease severity, number of previous transfusions of FWB, and prevalence and pattern of TTVIs (HIV, HBV and HCV infections) of newly referred haemophiliacs as seen in five tertiary hospitals in northern Nigeria. Prevalence rates of TTVIs were expressed as percentages. Comparisons of parameters (age, disease severity and number of previous transfusions) between patients with and without TTVIs were performed using Students t-test for mean values and Fisher’s exact test for percentages, with p-values of less than 0.05 taken as significant. Results: Of 97 haemophiliacs studied, 24 (24.7%) were infected with TTVIs. The pattern and frequencies of TTVIs among the infected patients revealed HBV infection in 10 (41.7%), HIV-1 infection in five (20.8%), HCV infection in four (16.7%), HBV and HIV co-infection in three (12.5%), and HBV and HCV co-infection in two (8.3%). In comparison with haemophiliacs without TTVIs, haemophiliacs with TTVIs had a significantly lower mean age (4.9 vs. 7.8; p=0.007); a higher proportion of severe disease (62.5% vs. 26%; p=0.009), and a higher mean number of transfusions per patient (27.5 vs. 15.3; p=0.006). Conclusions: The prevalence of TTVIs among haemophiliacs in Nigeria is high, and the risk is correlated with disease severity and number of previous transfusions. There is need for the national transfusion service to be upgraded and for standard haemophilia care centres with an adequate supply of FVIII concentrates for optimal care to be set up. Haemophilia healthcare providers in Nigeria can minimise multiple transfusions by incorporating regular screening and treatment of haemorrhagic parasitic diseases, iron supplementation, and the use of pharmacological agents in the standard of care for haemophilia.

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