Transfusion-transmissible infections in Australia Surveillance Report 2020

This report is jointly produced by the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood and the Kirby Institute via the Surveillance, Evaluation and Research Program, which is responsible for monitoring the pattern of transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and specific sexually transmissible infections in Australia. This is the tenth report that summarises donation testing data, and incidence and prevalence trends for transfusion transmissible infections (TTIs) among Australian blood donors. While it is an important Lifeblood resource, it is also intended to be a reference document for organisations and individuals interested in the occurrence of transfusion transmissible infections in Australia and the effectiveness of Lifeblood’s infectious disease blood safety strategy. The data in the report is current at the time of publication and all efforts have been undertaken to confirm its accuracy, however subsequent data updates may occur and users must consider this.

After first publication, an error was discovered relating to the total number of tested donations for HTLV and syphilis. The reported total tested figure of 793,113 was underreported, actual figure 809,607. This error also influenced the New and Repeat donor totals and led to slightly over reported HTLV and syphilis prevalence rates. None of the required corrections in the 27 April update of the report have impacted the trend analyses for HTLV or syphilis.

Key findings
  • Over the ten year period 2010–2019, there were over 13 million blood donations in Australia with an average of 1.3 million donations per year.
  • In 2019, a total of 191 blood donors were detected as having a TTI for which screening is in place, namely, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human T cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV), or active syphilis. In 2019, three donors were infected by more than one TTI (two with HBV and HCV, and one with HCV and HTLV, co-infections), making a total of 194 TTIs detected.
  • Consistent with the long‑term pattern, the most common TTI was HBV, followed by HCV. Of all the donations positive for a TTI in 2019, 84.5% were positive for either HBV or HCV.
  • Overall HTLV was the least common infection among all donors in 2019, with just five donors testing positive.
  • Although representing only 14.5% of the donor population, first‑time blood donors contributed to 79% of TTIs in Australia in 2019, as compared to the 68% in 2018. This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2010 (67%‑80%).
  • No transfusion‑transmitted HBV, HCV, HIV, HTLV or syphilis infections were reported in Australia in 2019.
  • Consistent with previous years, in 2019, the prevalence of TTIs was substantially lower among first‑time blood donors (8 to 37 times) compared with national prevalence estimates for 2018.