Ensuring blood safety

All blood donations undergo a number of tests at the Blood Service to ensure product safety and quality. Testing is also performed at the hospital before you receive a transfusion.

All blood donations are tested by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service for the following reasons:

  • To allow appropriate selection of blood for a compatible transfusion (eg. ABO and RhD blood group compatibility between donor and recipient).
  • To identify donations that are not suitable for transfusion (eg. from a donor who carries a transfusion-transmissible infection).
  • To minimise/prevent adverse consequences of transfusion (eg. for recipients who require special products). 

Mandatory testing

Mandatory tests are performed for ABO and RhD blood groups, red cell antibodies and the following infections: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 1 and 2; hepatitis B and C; human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) I and II; and syphilis. Platelets have to be stored at room temperature, and they are screened for bacteria.

There are strict guidelines and procedures for these tests. All tests are performed in licensed facilities according to the principles of good laboratory and manufacturing practice.

The Blood Service checks the test results before any blood components are released for clinical use.

If a screening test for infectious disease is confirmed as reactive, the donation is destroyed, and the donor is notified and counselled by the Blood Service.

Only donations that have returned satisfactory blood results, which are non-reactive for infectious disease screening and meet all other specifications, are released by the Blood Service for use. 

CMV testing

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus that affects people of all ages. Many people are infected with CMV and don't even know it because this virus rarely causes any symptoms and usually does not cause long-term health problems.

This virus is of no particular risk to the majority of patients receiving a transfusion as it is only transmissible when the virus is active. In the majority of the population, CMV remains inactive. As a result, CMV is unlikely to be transmitted through a blood transfusion.

However, CMV can cause problems in patient's that have a weakened immune system from illness or if undergoing an organ transplant, and also in patients that are pregnant and have not previously been in contact with CMV. CMV negative blood can be requested for these patients.

The Blood Service performs CMV antibody screening on a proportion of donations in order to provide these patient groups with CMV negative blood components.

Testing performed by the hospital 

Before you receive a transfusion, the hospital transfusion laboratory requires a sample of your blood for blood grouping and antibody testing. Not all antibodies are equal in importance in a transfusion situation. By knowing which antibodies you have, it allows laboratory staff to carefully match (or cross-match) your blood with donor blood to select the appropriate blood for your transfusion. This reduces the chance of a transfusion reaction occurring as a result of these antibodies. Learn more in matching blood groups.