updated 7/27/2006 9:31:23 AM ET 2006-07-27T13:31:23

A hospital patient died after receiving a unit of blood platelets tainted with E. coli bacteria, the Community Blood Center in Kansas City said.

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The Food and Drug Administration determined the transfusion, which took place Dec. 21, was a “contributing factor” in the patient’s death.

“It truly was a tragic incident, and a very rare series of mistakes,” David Graham, director of donor recruitment for the blood center, said Wednesday.

Citing patient confidentiality, Graham said he could not discuss the hospital or the patient, other than to say the patient was being treated for a serious illness at an area hospital. Only one unit of the tainted blood was released, he said.

Graham said the blood center discovered the blood platelets were tainted and notified the hospital hours after the hospital received the tainted unit of platelets. But the unit already had been used, he said.

In a warning letter dated March 9, the FDA chastised the blood center, saying its procedures are “not always maintained and followed.” The agency pointed out problems with inadequate training and said the blood center had failed to maintain adequate records of donors who experienced reactions such as fainting or vomiting.

Graham said the problems had been rectified.

Messages left with the FDA Wednesday night were not immediately returned.

E. coli bacteria can cause severe diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Young children and the elderly are at risk of complications that can lead to kidney damage or death.

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