The blood transfusion (BT) system in Pakistan is fragmented, demand-driven, and depends on weakly regulated transfusion practices. This is primarily a big problem in smaller cities and remote rural areas. Pakistan has one of the highest hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence worldwide, estimated around 5 & 10 million cases, respectively. There is a considerable risk that transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs) may have contributed to the current epidemic of HBV & HCV, affecting 7.4 % of the general population, and potential risk of HIV transmission in the country. In this systematic review, we aim to identify the prevalence of TTIs among the blood donor population and associated safety challenges.

Method & Material:

We conducted a systematic literature search to identify studies related to TTIs and transfusion safety in Pakistan from January 1, 2010, to January 31, 2020. A search was conducted using PubMed and (largest medical database of Pakistan); initial search retrieved 981 articles, 166 met the inclusion criteria, and after review by two independent reviewers, 33 articles met the final criteria for qualitative synthesis.


Analysis of 33 studies showed the seroprevalence of HBV of 2.04 % (0.81% to 4.22%), HCV of 2.44% (1.29 % to 10%), HIV of 0.038% (0% to 0.18%), syphilis of 1.1% (0.11-3.01%) and malaria of 0.11% (0.05-1.20). The rate of coinfections among blood donors varied from 0.0099% to 0.35 %. The highest number of coinfections were HCV & syphilis, followed by HCV & HBV infections. The rate of TTIs was dependent on the number of donors, donor types (replacement vs. voluntary), screening techniques used, number, and type of TTIs tested. There was a lack of universal screening for common TTIs. Syphilis and malaria were tested only 38 % & 46 % of all the blood donations. The studies with a high number of replacement donors (RDs) noted a high prevalence of TTIs of 2.5 % to 12 % compared to the studies with a high number of voluntary non-remunerated donations (VNRDs) reported TTIs rates of 1.57% to 6.2 %. There was a significant difference in the prevalence of HBV & HCV in VNRDs (0.48%) compared to RDs (4.15%). The rate of VNRDs was 0.10 % to 13%. The majority of blood donations were from male donors, representing more than 70 % of all donations. The female donations varied from 0.03% to 15 % in government/public blood banks than 29 % in private sector blood banks. The HBV & HCV infections and anemia were the most common causes of blood donation deferral. The 69.5 % of donors who tested positive for TTIs in a study reported previous blood donations. The educational status of donors noted to have an association with knowledge about the risk of TTIs. Odds of having limited knowledge about TTIs (OR: 4.04, CI: 1.567-10.435, p<0.01) were greater if donors had a secondary level of education compared to those with tertiary education. 48 % of blood donors did not know about the risk of TTIs through blood transfusion. There was notification of only about 54.25 % of all donors, who tested positive for any TTIs. This was mainly due to a lack of standardized reporting and follow up systems.


This systemic review shows a high prevalence of TTIs, especially HBV, HCV & syphilis in the blood donor population. There is a high dependency on RDs, with minimal use of healthy voluntary blood donation practices, inadequate screening of high-risk donors, repeated collections of the blood from RDs, poor quality of screening methods, and limited knowledge of donors about their health. There is a lack of widespread standardized testing and follow up of patients who tested positive on initial testing. Large prospective multicenter clinical trials are required for a better understanding of the TTIs by testing and creating a follow-up system for both blood donors and recipients.


Anwer:Incyte, Seattle Genetics, Acetylon Pharmaceuticals, AbbVie Pharma, Astellas Pharma, Celegene, Millennium Pharmaceuticals.:Honoraria, Research Funding, Speakers Bureau.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.