Blood transfusion safety

Testing of donated blood

The first step in reducing the risk of transmission of infectious diseases through blood is to select voluntary non-remunerated donors from low-risk populations who give blood on a regular basis as these individuals are at a lower risk of transmitting transfusion-transmissible infections than are family/replacement donors, or paid donors. However, even with the most careful selection, some donors may be seropositive for HIV or other infectious agents. Therefore, rigorous screening of all donated blood is required to ensure the safety of the blood supply.

Finnish Red Cross

In the key global fact and figures in 2012 (Fact sheet number 279), in 39 countries, blood donations are still not routinely tested for transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs) including HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis; 47% donations in low-income countries are tested in laboratories without quality assurance. The donated blood should also be tested for ABO and RhD to ensure the safety and compatibility of the transfusion for the patient.

WHO encourages and supports countries, through provision of advice and training, in the development and implementation of these activities in accordance with their needs. The Diagnostics laboratory section covers these and other aspects of blood screening in more detail.

Contact information

Blood Transfusion Safety
Department for Health Systems Policies and Workforce
World Health Organization-Headquarters
20 Avenue Appia
1211, Geneva 27
Switzerland