Transfusion-transmissible infection: Malaria

Malaria is a rare transfusion-transmitted infection but continues to pose a risk.

To minimise the risk of potential blood donors transmitting infectious agents to patients, all donations are subjected to stringent screening procedures, including collection of a comprehensive medical and travel history as part of the donor assessment process. Malarial antibody screening is performed by the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood on donors with a potential malarial exposure risk.

When to suspect this adverse reaction?

Symptoms may be non-specific such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, joint pains and diarrhoea.  It should be suspected in any patient with a febrile illness if they had exposure to an area known to be endemic for malaria.


Usual causes?

Malaria is an infectious disease caused by a parasite, Plasmodium sp.  The parasite invades red blood cells and destroys them releasing daughter cells which further invade more red cells.  Malaria is transmitted to humans through the bite of the female anopheles mosquitoes.  It can also rarely be transmitted through blood transfusion from an infected donor.


Suspected malaria is diagnosed by visualization of parasites in blood smears or by detection of parasite antigens or antibodies by rapid diagnostic tests.

What to do?

Treat the specific parasite with antimalarial drugs. 

Notify Lifeblood.



1. World Health Organization.  Guidelines for the treatment of malaria, 3rd ed, WHO, Geneva 2015.