Malaria is a rare transfusion-transmitted infection but continues to pose a risk to patients.
Malarial antibody screening is performed by Lifeblood on donors that are identified by the initial pre-donation screening process as having a risk of exposure to malaria e.g. through travel or residence in an endemic area or recovery from clinical malaria.

When to suspect this adverse reaction

Symptoms may be non-specific such as periodic fever, rigors and chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, joint pains and diarrhoea.  Patients may also have evidence of haemolytic anaemia.
Malaria 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 caused by a parasite of the genus Plasmodium. Infection is transmitted to humans through the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. Malarial parasites invade red blood cells and destroy them, releasing daughter cells which then invade further red cells.

It can also rarely be transmitted by transfusion from an infected donor.


Suspected malaria is diagnosed by the observation of parasites in a peripheral blood smear or by detection of parasite antigens or antibodies by rapid diagnostic tests.

What to do

Treat the specific parasite with antimalarial drugs, and notify Lifeblood.