CoV-2 identified in blood donations in China

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

Concern over screening for blood donation services was raised by a report from China that identified CoV-2 in samples from asymptomatic donors and on the donation service response in contact tracing and testing.

The report details the screening measures that were started in blood centres in Wuhan from 25 January 2020 and are published as a research letter in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. [1]

The first PCR testing performed on pooled samples in real time and retrospectively found positive viral RNA from four donors, none of whom had symptoms of COVID-19. By 4 March, 2,430 samples had been prospectively screened (1656 platelets and 774 whole blood plasma).

Donors were contacted and quarantined until two consecutive throat swabs were confirmed negative.

Retrospective screening of 4,995 donations collected from 21 December to 22 January found two additional positive samples, none of which had been used. The donors were again contacted to be quarantined at home.

All donors for January and February were contacted by telephone and 33 people reporting fever since donating had their samples taken out of circulation.

Although the study notes limitation on the information about some donors and that finding CoV-2 RNA does not confirm infectivity and risk of transmission, this potential risk should not be ignored.

The service also emphasises screening prospective donors for symptoms and on the need to actively report fever and other symptoms if these occur after donating.


1.  Chang L et al. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 RNA Detected in Blood Donations. Research Letter. Emerg Infect Dis. 2020, 26(7) July 2020. DOI: 10.3201/eid2607.200839

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