What is the role of methylene blue in the prevention of transfusion-transmitted diseases?

Updated: Jan 15, 2017
  • Author: Mudassar Zia, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Methylene blue is a dye that combines with cellular elements. Once it is exposed to light, the dye becomes active and disrupts the wall to which it is attached. This method has been used extensively in Europe to inactivate viruses. Limitations of the methylene blue technique include ineffectiveness against intracellular pathogens and likely interaction with coagulation factors. The loss of fibrinogen content is estimated to be around 20%, raising issues of efficacy when the treated product is used for plasma exchange in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. [83, 84]

Methylene blue also gives a tinge to the treated units; recipients who receive a lot of such treated blood products may develop skin discoloration. Filters that can remove the dye before transfusion have become available in some countries, thus avoiding this problem. [85]

Note: Neither the solvent-detergent method nor the methylene blue method is capable of inactivating prions, the putative cause of vCJD. Accordingly, the selection of donors from areas in which vCJD has not been reported is the only method currently available for preventing the spread of this infection via the transfusion of blood products.

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