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Transfusion-Associated Graft-Versus-Host Disease (TA-GVHD): Definition and Incidence

TA-GVHD is a rare but highly lethal adverse transfusion reaction. The disease has a 90% mortality rate. It is caused by the transfusion of donor lymphocytes to a recipient who is immunocompromised. The donor lymphocytes engraft and escalate an immune response against the host's tissues, including organs such as the lungs, skin, intestines, and liver. The recipient is unable to destroy the foreign lymphocytes and the cells proliferate and respond to incompatible antigens in the host.
Certain recipients have increased risk for developing TA-GVHD. They are:
  • Newborns who have had intrauterine transfusions
  • Recipients with a congenital or acquired immunodeficiency
  • Patients with hematological malignancies
  • Recipients of donor units from a blood relative