The undersigned organizations support the critical work being done by the Tick-Borne Disease Working Group (TBDWG). Vector-borne diseases, including tick-borne diseases, create multifaceted and interdisciplinary public health challenges. We appreciate the TBDWG’s plans to address the risks associated with tick-borne diseases and applaud policymakers’ commitment to addressing tick-borne diseases through the recently enacted Kay Hagan Tick Act. We hope that the ongoing efforts of this Working Group and the efforts resulting from the Kay Hagan Tick Act will improve our understanding of existing tick-borne diseases, enable the rapid detection of new disease agents, result in effective prevention and improve the public’s health.
Blood transfusions are medically necessary, routine treatments for patients with chronic health conditions, life-saving therapies for patients who experience blood loss from trauma or surgery and must be available in emergencies. A variety of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue-based products (HCT/Ps) are used as cellular therapies and other biotherapies to treat different diseases or conditions. For instance, hematopoietic stem cells are used to treat leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease.
As the TBDWG recognized in its 2018 Report to Congress, tick-borne pathogens are quite diverse, and methods of transmission differ. While there is evidence that some existing tick-borne diseases can be transmitted via blood transfusions, other tick-borne diseases have not been linked to blood transfusions or therapies involving HCT/Ps. For example, despite the prevalence of Lyme disease in the general U.S. population, we have not seen evidence that Lyme disease can be transmitted via blood transfusion or therapies involving HCT/Ps. We are encouraged that the efforts of the TBDWG and resulting activities have the potential to add to the evidence and result in improved, evidence-based policymaking that reflects documented risk.