New fears of human immunodeficiency virus’ (HIV) spread in China have arisen after it was revealed that Shanghai Xinxing Pharmaceutical has sold more than 12,000 immunoglobulin treatments contaminated with HIV.
Although a recall has been issued by the Chinese pharmaceutical company, the potential for widespread HIV infection still exists.
HIV in China
The graph below presents the number of diagnosed and undiagnosed cases of HIV in men and women of all ages in China in 2016, and estimated cases to 2026.
China, total prevalent cases of HIV, men and women, all ages, 2016–2026
GlobalData epidemiologists estimated that there were more than 870,000 cases of HIV in China in 2016, including both diagnosed and undiagnosed cases.
Of those, between 20% and 30% go undiagnosed. This gap could grow even higher as those infected as a result of this contamination may be unaware they have contracted HIV and unwittingly pass on the disease.
The immunoglobulin treatments, which are antibodies used for treating immune deficiencies caused by diseases such as leukaemia and hepatitis, are made from pooled blood plasma from numerous donors.
Although these treatments are screened for pathogens, the potential for contamination always exists. It is currently unknown how many patients may have been treated with the tainted immunoglobulin before the mandatory stop order and recall were issued; however, the potential impacts for those who did receive treatment can be devastating.
The ill effects of this exposure also do not stop at only those who were treated but anyone that may be exposed to the illness through the infected person.
It will be of the utmost importance for the Chinese government to ensure that all treated persons be contacted, tested and treated as needed in order to ensure that the impact of this contamination is mitigated.