Ensuring blood safety

We test every single blood donation (more than once). Then the hospital’s transfusion lab tests it again before you receive a transfusion. Lifeblood tests blood to:   

List

1
find out the blood group to allow selection of suitable blood for transfusion (e.g. ABO and RhD blood group compatibility between donor and patient)
2
identify donations that aren’t suitable for transfusion (e.g. from a donor who carries a transfusion-transmissible infection)
3
minimise or prevent adverse events of a transfusion (e.g. for patients who require special blood products). 
illustration of three test tubes containing blood on a rack
What is blood tested for?

We do a lot of testing.   
 
To start, all donations are tested for ABO and RhD blood groups so the hospital’s transfusion lab can match it to your blood.   
 
Tests are also done for red cell antibodies, which are proteins that react with red blood cells.  

We also make sure we look for the following infections:     

  • human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 1 and 2  
  • hepatitis B and C  
  • human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) I and II 
  • syphilis.  

Some parts of our blood, like platelets, are stored at room temperature, so they need even more testing and are screened for bacteria.   
 
We follow strict guidelines and procedures for this testing and do it in licensed facilities according to the principles of good laboratory and manufacturing practice.  
 
If a screening test for infectious disease shows up positive, we destroy the donation, then notify and counsel the donor.   
 
This means that only donations that have passed all of the blood tests (that is, they are non-reactive for infectious disease screening and meet all other specifications) are released by Lifeblood.  

illustration of a red blood droplet with a magnifying glass over it with a question mark
What is 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 it rarely causes any symptoms and no long-term health problems.   
 
CMV is of no particular risk to most patients receiving a transfusion as it’s only transmissible when the virus is active. In most of the population, CMV remains inactive, so it’s unlikely to be transmitted through a blood transfusion.   
 
However, CMV can cause problems if, as a patient, you have a weakened immune system from illness or you’re undergoing an organ transplant. It can also cause problems in patients who are pregnant and haven’t previously been in contact with CMV. If you’re one of these patients, your doctor can request CMV negative blood.   
 
We do CMV antibody screening on a portion of donations to make sure we’ve got enough CMV negative blood components for you if it’s needed.

Testing by the hospital

Before you receive a transfusion, the hospital’s transfusion lab needs a sample of your blood to find out your blood group and test for antibodies.   
 
Sometimes there’s a chance your antibodies could react to the donated blood you receive in a transfusion. By knowing which antibodies you have, lab staff can carefully select suitable blood for transfusion by matching (or cross-matching) your blood with donor blood. This reduces the chance of a transfusion reaction caused by antibodies.

Learn more about matching blood groups