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Product safety

Australia has one of the safest blood supplies in the world. However, this record could be compromised without active research to identify emerging risks and to develop ways to measure and control new risks. Scientists in R&D at the Blood service monitor the emergence of diseases in Australia, develop and implement methods to test for them, and explore methods to eradicate them from the blood supply.

Infectious diseases are not the only risks associated with blood transfusions. Studies are underway in this group to examine how donor variation, blood processing and storage parameters can affect the clinical outcome for patients who receive transfusions. This work will underpin the development of safer blood products and improved transfusion safety.

Research leaders

Prof Robert Flower
A/Prof Catherine Hyland
Dr Melinda Dean
Dr Helen Faddy
Dr John-Paul Tung
Dr Elvina Viennet
Dr Elizna Schoeman

Current research

Monitoring emerging diseases
Climate change and the easy of movement of people allow new viruses to spread easily across the globe.  Researchers at the Blood Service track the appearance of new diseases by testing samples from across Australia. Right now, they are monitoring Zika, Chikungunya, Hepatitis E, Dengue fever, Q-fever and Babesia viruses. Their studies provide information to help us select healthy donors and decide when to introduce new tests. Read more

Testing technology to kill viruses and other pathogens
Pathogen Inactivation Technologies (PI) can improve blood safety by inactivating bacteria and viruses in blood products using ultraviolet light. Studies are underway to find out if these systems can kill viruses which may be emerging threats in Australia, such as Zika virus.

Reducing the incidence of transfusion complications
Transfusion-Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI) is a rare complication of blood transfusion. Patients with TRALI have breathing difficulties and low blood oxygen following a transfusion. Blood Service researchers are studying the link between blood components’ storage conditions and TRALI. This research aims to understand the mechanisms of TRALI and reduce its incidence using sheep as a model to mimic the human condition.

Molecular signals during blood transfusion
Blood transfusion can be associated with complications in some patients.  This research addresses how a patient’s own blood cells respond to transfusion by making a variety of molecular signals. These signals may contribute to some of the poor outcomes from transfusions.

Preventing problems for newborn babies by using non-invasive testing
Babies whose blood contains the Rh D antigen (Rh positive) can suffer from life-threatening anemia (known as HDFN) if they are born to mothers who lack the Rh D antigen (Rh negative). Doctors currently protect unborn babies from HDFN by injecting all Rh negative mothers with Anti D antibodies during pregnancy. Researchers at the Blood Service have developed a diagnostic test which uses a blood sample from an Rh negative mother to check the blood type of her fetus.  If the fetus is Rh positive, the mother receives a dose of anti D antibodies. This testing has the potential to reduce the use of expensive anti D antibodies, because Rh negative foetuses are not at risk. Our researchers are conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the screening test, and extending the test to blood groups other than RhD.

Improving transfusion safety using genetic testing
Conventional blood typing uses antibodies to determine the blood group of a patient. Transfusing a patient with incompatible blood can lead to severe complications or even death. Apart from the commonly known A, B, O and Rh blood systems, there are many other antigens that can lead to reactions in transfused patients. In some cases, genetic testing provides more accurate blood group testing than antibody testing. The Blood Service is exploring powerful genetic testing to improve the matching of donor and recipient, especially for minority ethnic groups and rare blood groups. Read more

Understanding how red blood cells work
Red blood cells undergo a variety of changes during storage that may interfere with their function after transfusion. Researchers at the Blood Service are seeking to improve transfusion safety by better understanding these changes.  They are investigating fundamental red blood cell physiology, how red blood cells vary between donors, changes in red blood cells during storage and molecules that regulate the lifespan of red blood cells. Read more


Selected publications

Faddy HM, Fryk JJ, Prow NA, et al. (2016) Inactivation of dengue, chikungunya, and Ross River viruses in platelet concentrates after treatment with ultraviolet C light. Transfusion 56(6 Pt 2):1548-55 doi:10.1111/trf.13519

Simonova G, Tung JP, Fraser JF, et al. (2014) A comprehensive ovine model of blood transfusion. Vox Sang 106(2):153-60 doi:10.1111/vox.12076Hyland CA, Gardener GJ, O'Brien H, et al. (2014)

Strategy for managing maternal variant RHD alleles in Rhesus D negative obstetric populations during fetal RHD genotyping. Prenat Diagn 34(1):56-62 doi:10.1002/pd.4253

Lopez GH, Wei L, Ji Y, et al. (2016) GYP*Kip, a novel GYP(B-A-B) hybrid allele, encoding the MNS48 (KIPP) antigen. Transfusion 56(2):539-41 doi:10.1111/trf.13450

McBean RS, Hyland CA, Hendry JL, Shabani-Rad MT, Flower RL (2015) SARA: a "new" low-frequency MNS antigen (MNS47) provides further evidence of the extreme diversity of the MNS blood group system. Transfusion 55(6 Pt 2):1451-6 doi:10.1111/trf.12973

Perros AJ, Christensen AM, Flower RL, Dean MM (2015) Soluble Mediators in Platelet Concentrates Modulate Dendritic Cell Inflammatory Responses in an Experimental Model of Transfusion. J Interferon Cytokine Res 35(10):821-30 doi:10.1089/jir.2015.0029

Polwaththe-Gallage H-N, Saha SC, Sauret E, Flower R, Gu Y (2015) Numerical Investigation of Motion and Deformation of a Single Red Blood Cell in a Stenosed Capillary. International Journal of Computational Methods 12(04):1540003 doi:10.1142/s0219876215400034

Seed CR, Hoad VC, Faddy HM, Kiely P, Keller AJ, Pink J (2016) Re-evaluating the residual risk of transfusion-transmitted Ross River virus infection. Vox Sang 110(4):317-23 doi:10.1111/vox.12372

Shrestha AC, Flower RL, Seed CR, Keller AJ, Hoad V, Harley R, Leader R, Polkinghorne B, Furlong C, Faddy HM. Hepatitis E virus infections in travellers: assessing the threat to the Australian blood supply. Blood Transfus. 2016 Jul 22:1-8. doi: 10.2450/2016.0064-16. [Epub ahead of print]

Tung, J.P., Fung, Y.L., Nataatmadja, M., Colebourne, K.I., Esmaeel, H.M., Wilson, K., Barnett, A.G., Wood, P., Silliman, C.C., Fraser, J.F., 2011. A novel in vivo ovine model of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI). Vox Sang. 100, 219-230.