Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the impact on the blood supply

◄ Back to Transfusion News

Background

At the end of 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, the cause of which was unknown.  A novel coronavirus was identified as the origin and has since been named “SARS-CoV-2” which causes COVID-19. While most early cases were linked to a wet market in Wuhan, community transmission has been seen in countries around the world.   On March 11, 2020, the WHO upgraded the status of the COVID-19 outbreak from epidemic to pandemic. 

Current position

We have assessed the blood safety risk from SARS-CoV2 as low and expect it to remain low. Internationally, other blood services have independently and unanimously arrived at the same conclusion.
We are continuing to very closely monitor blood product demand, particularly with the expected resumption of elective surgeries. Lifeblood appreciates the ongoing focus on appropriate usage of blood and blood products within hospitals and healthcare organisations, especially managing use of O RhD negative red cells.
Following patient blood management (PBM) principles remains important. For patients who are symptomatic, but not bleeding, transfuse a single unit then reassess. Each unit prescribed is an independent clinical decision and transfusion risks are dose dependent. Want more information? Check out the Single Unit Transfusion Guide by the National Blood Authority on why and how to implement a single unit policy.
You can read more about the measures we are taking to keep the blood supply and our donor centres safe, and changes to our eligibility criteria, on the Lifeblood website where you will also find regularly updated FAQs.

Blood safety risk assessment

Respiratory viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, such are SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, are not known to be transfusion-transmissible. Detection of the virus in the blood of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection has been associated with severity of illness in unwell patients, usually critically ill; such individuals would not be eligible to donate blood. Our strict screening processes means we do not allow people who are unwell to donate blood. In Wuhan, comparatively early in the epidemic, four SARS-CoV-2 RNA positive donations were detected with nil further detections once mitigation measures such as isolating contacts and cases occurred. In addition, these detections were not confirmed as infectious virus, which is a requirement for transfusion-transmission to occur. Despite over three million infections worldwide, there are no confirmed reports of coronavirus being transmitted by blood transfusion anywhere in the world. To reduce the number of people coming into contact with the virus and to decrease any theoretical risk of transfusion-transmission, we are asking donors who have returned from overseas and those who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 to wait 28 days before giving blood.

Convalescent plasma

Lifeblood will begin collecting convalescent plasma, for the first time in Australia, in a bid to help the fight against COVID-19.  

While there is limited knowledge of the efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma for COVID-19, given the severity of COVID-19, Lifeblood has been in discussions with governments about how we could supply convalescent plasma. As Australia’s sole supplier of plasma, we are in a unique position to help and will begin collecting convalescent plasma from recovered donors this month.

The convalescent plasma will be used as an experimental treatment option for approved clinical trials in the future, either as fresh frozen plasma or as a medication being produced by CSL Behring called COVID-19 Immunoglobulin. Further information on these clinical trials can be obtained from a Lifeblood Transfusion Medicine Specialist.

Given the current lack of evidence for clinical benefit and to ensure equitable access, Lifeblood will not be issuing convalescent plasma outside of approved clinical trials. If the evidence or lack thereof of a treatment benefit emerges internationally, we will adjust our protocols accordingly.

Given the limited number of people who have recovered from COVID-19, Lifeblood requires assistance from the clinical community to identify potential donors. Lifeblood asks that clinicians provide their patient/confirmed case with our attached donor information sheet.

In addition to meeting Lifeblood’s current donor eligibility criteria, convalescent plasma donors must:

  • Have a confirmed laboratory diagnosis of COVID-19
  • Be fully recovered from the virus and symptom-free for at least 28 days.

Potential donors can contact Lifeblood on 13 14 95 to further discuss and/or to make an appointment to donate or visit the Lifeblood website for further information.

Surveillance

Our Donor and Product Safety team is monitoring the situation on a daily basis and we are in regular contact with colleagues from international blood services.

Please remember to donate blood

There is an ongoing need for donations. Call 13 14 95 or visit Lifeblood's website or book a donation on the DonateBlood app.
Also important is to support and promote the need for blood donation through normal organisational communication channels. Even for those who can't donate, the good news is that they can still help! To spread the message like or share Lifeblood's social media pages.

 

Further updates

We will update this website regularly as the pandemic evolves.  

 

 Date: 2 June 2020