What does climate change have to do with blood donation?

What does climate change have to do with blood donation?

Climate change has emerged as one of the greatest challenges of our time. While many of us are aware of the increasing risk posed by warming temperatures, such as extreme weather events, climate change will have an impact far beyond our weather forecast. One area that Lifeblood is paying attention to is the effect a warming planet could have on blood borne diseases – and the risk these could pose to our blood supply.

Like any organism, viruses and bacteria are better suited to some environments than others. For instance, a tropical disease like dengue fever which spreads through mosquito bites, thrives in the climate of South East Asia, but without a thriving mosquito population, it wouldn’t last long during a frigid winter in south eastern Australia. However, as earth’s temperature continues to rise, the regions a disease like dengue fever calls home, can expand.

At Lifeblood, we are responsible for one of the safest blood supplies in the world. To maintain this safety, we test every donation we receive for a wide range of diseases. But this is only half the battle. New diseases are always emerging, and sometimes old diseases can re-emerge. Our team of medical scientists and researchers keep a watchful eye on the risk these diseases can pose to our blood supply. By studying their transmission, and predicting outbreaks, we can prepare for any future pandemics and help mitigate risk.

One of the scientists helping us prepare is Dr Elvina Viennet. Dr Viennet and her team are studying the impact changes in weather, environment and climate can have on the prevalence and transmission of transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs) such as dengue fever or Ross River virus. By analysing the patterns and trends of these diseases, across both time and geographic areas, her team is able to identify any emerging risks and vulnerabilities associated with our changing environment.

“We proactively contribute to protecting our recipients and more broadly the Australian community.” - Dr Elvina Viennet

The work Dr Viennet and her team are undertaking is vital to the safety of our blood supply and shows incredible promise for the future, but it’s also just one area of research Lifeblood is pursuing. Whether it’s research into new cancer treatments developed with donated T-Cells, the potential application of donor microbiota to treat mental illness or the countless other areas of study our team are carrying out, Lifeblood is proud to challenge the limit of our knowledge, to uncover new discoveries and change lives for the better.