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13.04.2020 Europe

Can Covid-19 be transferred through blood donations?

By Jan van der Made - RFI
US NAVY/AFP/File
LISTEN APR 13, 2020
US NAVY/AFP/File

The need for blood donations has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Early research found samples of blood donations to be infected with the coronavirus. But does this mean blood donations are unsafe?

According to a research letter, written by five Chinese researchers, pre-published on the website of the Centers of Disease Controle and Prevention (CDD,) researchers “found plasma samples positive for viral RNA from four asymptomatic donors.”

The researchers, who said they screened 2,430 blood donations found four to be positive. The article describes one donor, whose blood sample was found to be infected. He had to undergo throat swabs, was found positive and isolated in one of Wuhan's hastily built container hospitals, and released when he tested negative after two weeks.

However, the donor never displayed any symptoms, which made initial prevention of his infection impossible without prior testing.

Is Covid-19 transmissable by blood transfusion?

The American Red Cross calls on volunteers to “give blood, help save lives,” saying that it ''needs the help of blood donors to maintain a sufficient blood supply for weeks to come.”

Is Covid-19 transmissable by blood transfusion?
According to the US Food and Drugs Administration, “respiratory viruses are not known to be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus.”

The Red Cross says that “there is no data or evidence that this coronavirus can be transmissible by blood transfusion,” adding that it “only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation.” The Red Cross, and other blood collection centers, like the Memorial Blood Center do not specifically test for Covid-19.

Binding sites
“There is absolutely no evidence of transfusion transmission for COVID-19, or any other coronavirus,” says Dr. Steven Drews, associate director of microbiology at Canadian Blood Services (CBS).

“This family of respiratory viruses just doesn't appear to be transfusion-transmitted.”

According to Canadian Blood Services, “viruses rely on 'binding sites' on their host cells, proteins which allow them to attach and invade. The binding sites for COVID-19 are located in the lungs and the intestines. “There is no evidence this new coronavirus targets blood cells, or even uses plasma to move around and invade other organs,” according to CBS.

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