Transfusion-transmissible infections in Australia: Surveillance Report 2021

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 report 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.

Key findings
  • Over the ten-year period 2011–2020, there were over 13 million blood donations in Australia with an average of 1.3 million donations per year.
  • In 2020, a total of 207 blood donors were detected as positive for a TTI for which testing 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.
  • Consistent with the long term pattern, the most common TTI was HBV, followed by HCV. Of all the donations positive for a TTI in 2020, 83.6% were positive for either HBV or HCV.
  • Overall HTLV was the least common infection among all donors in 2020, with just four donors testing positive.
  • Although representing only 21.4% of the donor population, first time blood donors contributed to 77% of TTIs in Australia in 2020. This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2011 (77%–80%).
  • No transfusion transmitted HBV, HCV, HIV, HTLV or syphilis infections were reported in Australia in 2020.
  • Consistent with previous years, in 2020, the prevalence of TTIs was substantially lower among first time blood donors (11 to 62 times) compared with national prevalence estimates for 2019.