This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

O’Brien SF, Goldman M, Drews SJ. An expanded role for blood donor emerging pathogens surveillance. CMAJ. January 2023. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.147635-l.

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

In a letter published in CMAJ, CITF-funded researchers Drs. Sheila O’Brien and Steven Drews (Canadian Blood Services) argue that blood donor surveillance would make a valuable contribution to public health efforts to monitor emerging pathogens. Blood donor surveillance undertaken by Canadian Blood Services, which is responsible for  blood collection across Canada (except Quebec and the territories), is currently providing ongoing estimates of SARS-CoV-2 seroprevalence in the Canadian population, through a collaboration with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (see our website).

Key messages:

  • Public health surveillance can draw on residual blood samples, that represent 80% of the more than 850,000 blood samples collected each year by Canadian Blood Services.
  • Although the donors are not fully representative of the general population because of the eligibility criteria for blood donation, they provide seroprevalence estimates consistent with those from general population studies.

Serosurveillance of blood donors can provide regular and representative measures of the proportion of the population that is infected with a pathogen, thus complementing the information on outbreaks, as provided by wastewater surveillance.

This letter is a response to a paper published by Berry and colleagues in CMAJ last September, in which they argue that a more extensive and dynamic surveillance system, including wastewaster surveillance, population-based testing and genomics, is needed to support public health policy decision-making.