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Testing kit cloud on north Bengal

Siliguri, Oct. 18: As many as 5,320 expired test kits, required for detecting Hepatitis B and C, have been used by the regional blood transfusion centre at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) here and the 13 blood banks in the six districts of the region.

This came to light today, when a four-member team from the detective department of Calcutta Police arrived at the transfusion centre to take away the expired kits, but could seize only 9,080 of the 14,400 kits sent to north Bengal by the health department.

The centre’s officials admitted the possibility of contaminated blood having been transfused, but said so far, no reports have come in of patients becoming infected.

Led by Bhagirath Ghosh, the detective team seized the boxes containing the kits, which had been sent back to the transfusion centre by the blood banks of the region after the scam broke in Calcutta.

Clad in aprons and wearing gloves, the team rechecked the kits carrying fake expiry dates and packed them in boxes with the help of NBMCH officials. The year of expiry printed on the packets was 2007, whereas the year on the kits inside was 2005.

The scam was busted last month when thousands of kits, supplied to the health department by Monozyme India Ltd, were found to have crossed their expiry dates.

While the Calcutta police began an inquiry, the state drug control authority and the health department wired alerts to health establishments across the state to stop further use of the kits.

“We received the instruction before the Pujas and immediately passed it on to all the 13 blood banks where we had sent the kits after receiving them,” said director of the transfusion centre Mridumoy Das. “We instructed them to send back the kits to us.”

NBMCH sources said they had received 200 packets containing 8,000 Biozyme HbSAg kits and 160 packets containing 6,400 Biozyme HCV kits, used for Hepatitis B and C tests to detect HbSAg and HCV in human serum and plasma. Some of these were sent to the blood banks. But after the health department rang the bell, only 88 HbSAg and 70 HCV packets could be salvaged at NBMCH, while the blood banks returned 29 packets of HbSAg and 40 packets of HCV, a source said.

NBMCH authorities have expressed concern over the shortage of legitimate kits sent to them after the scam. “The supply that will last only 10 days,” said an official.

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