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JUST HOW VALUABLE IS YOUR BLOOD?

SHARE JUST HOW VALUABLE IS YOUR BLOOD?

A murderer's plan to sell his valuable blood has others thinking about the worth of their plasma.

More than a dozen people have called a Salt Lake blood donation center since news reports Wednesday about Russell Thompson's desire to sell his antibody-rich plasma.The man, who was convicted in January of killing a woman and dumping her body beneath a highway overpass, can earn as much as $2,500 a month for his blood, which contains a rare antibody for hepatitis B.

"We've taken quite a few calls from people who have heard about it on radio or news or read it . . . they wonder if their blood is worth as much," said Chad Murray, assistant manager at American Bio-med-i-cal.

The donation center on 600 West and North Temple is the only one in the state certified to take hepatitis-infected blood.

Thompson told a judge at his sentencing this week that he wants to use his blood to establish a trust fund for the children of his victim, Trika Ballard. He said he will give at least half of the monthly income from the bi-weekly draws to the three children, ages 4, 5 and 6.

Murray confirmed Friday that Thompson's plasma was, indeed, worth as much as the convict told the judge. However, he said few people have the particular type of antibody private laboratories seek.

"I'd say about one in 1,000 people who could have hepatitis B antibodies have the type that Russ has," Murray said. He would not specify the exact type of antibody that is so valuable.

Laboratories throughout the United States want large quantities of the antibodies because they are useful in making diagnostic tests and in research and development for new medicine to treat or prevent the disease, said state epidemiologist Craig Nichols.

Antibodies can be developed in two ways, he said. The first is through vaccines against the disease, which are common among health-care professionals. The other way to develop the specialized proteins is to be infected and then recover from the disease by the making of the antibodies.

Nichols said people are infected by hepatitis B through blood transmissions, such as a needle prick, tattooing, ear piercing and transfusions in some foreign countries that don't monitor their blood supply. Sexual contact with an infected person can also pass the disease along.

Symptoms include nausea, headaches and jaundice, which is a yellowing of the skin and/or eyes.

Thompson still must get the permission of prison officials before his plan can become reality.

Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said administrators at the Utah State Prison are reviewing the request.

"We haven't ruled it out, but there are some issues to be worked out, including who is going to pay for the transportation to Salt Lake twice a week," he said. "It's not something we're inclined to do for nothing."

Thompson told the judge this week that he was willing to pay any extra expenses, including mileage and the time of guards to monitor the drawings.