Very Bad Blood

The discovery of HIV-tainted plasma in Germany raises alarm about the ability to ensure safe supplies worldwide

It began with simple arithmetic. German health officials tracing some unexplained cases of HIV infection examined the records of a small blood- supply company in Koblenz last month and noticed a startling discrepancy. UB Plasma had sold 7,000 units of blood since 1992 but had purchased only 2,500 kits to screen for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The conclusion: either the firm had failed to test thousands of units, or it had "pooled" units from multiple donors before conducting the tests, an illegal practice that reduces the chances of detecting HIV contamination.

Investigators discovered that after UB Plasma began running...

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