12,000 HIV-infected blood plasma products from Shanghai company?

Society & Culture
A CD4 HIV test at Shanghai Xuhui District Central Hospital (Getty)
A CD4 HIV test at Shanghai Xuhui District Central Hospital (Getty)

An alarming story came to light today when the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration released a statement (in Chinese) announcing an immediate recall of a batch of blood plasma from Shanghai Xinxing Medicine Company due to some of it testing positive for HIV antibodies. According to the South China Morning Post and the New York Times, which cited local media:

  • There were 12,229 50-mL bottles of blood plasma produced in this batch.
  • The Jiangxi Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention first reported plasma with traces of HIV.
  • The plasma is used for an immune therapy treatment for illnesses such as leukemia.
  • No confirmed cases of patients contracting HIV from infected plasma have been reported.
  • The National Health Commission reassured the public (in Chinese) that “experts believe that the risk of HIV infection in patients using the drug is very low.”
  • The National Medical Products Association said (in Chinese) that upon further testing in Shanghai, plasma samples tested negative for HIV and other diseases.

But the incident, even if it was a false positive or low-risk breach, underscores endemic problems in China’s healthcare system, particularly with injection-based medicine like vaccines. The New York Times writes:

Last month, hundreds of angry parents protested against local government officials in a town in eastern China when it was revealed that more than 100 children had received expired polio vaccines. Months earlier, hundreds of thousands of children across China were reportedly injected with faulty vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. After protests by parents, the government imposed a record fine of $1.3 billion on the vaccine maker, Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology Company.

Also see in the New York Times an op-ed by global health expert Huáng Yánzhōng 黄延中: If a government can’t deliver safe vaccines for children, is it fit to rule?