Transfusion medicine

7 main findings on transfusion-transmissible infections in Australia

Blood transfusion services have maintained a good record in preventing transfusion-transmissible infections in the last year, according to the 2018 Australia surveillance report.

In its newly released report, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service shows that thanks to donor screening there were no transfusion-transmitted cases of the four highest-risk infections, hepatitis B and C, HIV and HTLV in 2017.

The number of transfusion-transmissible infections(145) detected in 2017  was the lowest recorded in the last decade, and 91% were either hepatitis B (HBV) or hepatitis C (HCV) virus.

Main findings of the report include:

  1. There were 75 HBV infections detected in the 1.3 million donations, the highest prevalence of potential transmissible infections among first time blood donors. Almost 20% (14) of the cases were occult HBV infection and only one case of an incident HBV donors was recorded in 2017.
  2. There were 48 HCV infections detected in all donors in 2017. Since 2008 there has been a 40% decrease in  in HCV prevalence in first time donors.
  3. There were three HIV infections detected among all donation in 2017, and the prevalence of HIV among first time donors has remained low at 0.002% of donations (50 times lower than the 0.1% prevalence of HIV nationally).
  4. There were two HTLV infections detected in all donations in 2017, both in first time donors.
  5. There were 17 potentially infectious syphilis infections detected in donations in 2017. This continues an upward trend in detections of syphilis in recent years, from 2.1 to 7.6 per 100,000 first time donations between 2008 and 2017.
  6. One in six of the infection-positive donors did not disclose risk factors that would have deferred them from donating.
  7. Emerging infections are being monitored for risk of transfusion transmission, with donors being deferred if they have potentially been exposed to Ebola, and donations being restricted to fractionated plasma for donors returning from Zika outbreak areas.

The report is jointly produced by the Blood Service and the Kirby Institute via the Surveillance, Evaluation and Research Program.

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