Viral metagenomics and blood safety.

The characterization of the human blood-associated viral community (also called blood virome) is essential for epidemiological surveillance and to anticipate new potential threats for blood transfusion safety. Currently, the risk of blood-borne agent transmission of well-known viruses (HBV, HCV, HIV and HTLV) can be considered as under control in high-resource countries. However, other viruses unknown or unsuspected may be transmitted to recipients by blood-derived products. This is particularly relevant considering that a significant proportion of transfused patients are immunocompromised and more frequently subjected to fatal outcomes. Several measures to prevent transfusion transmission of unknown viruses have been implemented including the exclusion of at-risk donors, leukocyte reduction of donor blood, and physicochemical treatment of the different blood components. However, up to now there is no universal method for pathogen inactivation, which would be applicable for all types of blood components and, equally effective for all viral families. In addition, among available inactivation procedures of viral genomes, some of them are recognized to be less effective on non-enveloped viruses, and inadequate to inactivate higher viral titers in plasma pools or derivatives. Given this, there is the need to implement new methodologies for the discovery of unknown viruses that may affect blood transfusion. Viral metagenomics combined with High Throughput Sequencing appears as a promising approach for the identification and global surveillance of new and/or unexpected viruses that could impair blood transfusion safety.

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