• arboviruses;
  • infection;
  • interventions;
  • transfusion-transmission;
  • blood transfusion;
  • emerging infectious diseases;
  • viruses


Objectives: To assess the risk to the Australian blood supply posed by emerging or re-emerging viral infections.

Method: A review was undertaken of the English-speaking literature on the potential for emerging viral threats to human health in Australia, the future implications of virus ecology, climate change and population movement and the implications for blood transfusion.

Results: Published data confirm that Australia's blood supply is among the safest in the world for currently screened viral pathogens as a result of rigorous surveillance, donor selection and state-of-the-art processing and laboratory testing. However, Australia has a number of other viral pathogens with the potential to threaten the safety of the blood supply such as the Ross River, Barmah Forrest, Kunjin, Japanese Encephalitis, Murray Valley Encephalitis and dengue viruses. Of these, dengue is currently of most concern to blood safety because; it can cause fatalities, there are regular seasonal outbreaks in Northern Australia and, in contrast to other viruses mentioned above an overseas case of transfusion transmission has already been documented. Notably, despite the lack of a suitable dengue screening test the ARCBS already implements supplementary measures to protect the blood supply during outbreaks.

Conclusion: Current interventions have proven extremely effective in minimising transfusion transmission in Australia of recognised viral pathogens. The threat posed by emerging viral pathogens to the safety of blood transfusion emphasises the need for global collaboration and consideration of further intervention strategies on a country by country basis including options such as nucleic acid testing and pathogen reduction technologies.