A novel strategy for screening blood donors for syphilis at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana

Transfus Med. 2016 Feb;26(1):63-6. doi: 10.1111/tme.12279. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Objective: To implement and describe a novel syphilis screening strategy for blood donors.

Background: The seroprevalence of syphilis in blood donors is often high in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) although the proportion of infectious donations is probably low. Syphilis screening may not happen at all; or the use of non-specific screening tests, which have high false positive rates, results in many donations being discarded unnecessarily. This can have a critical effect on already inadequate blood supplies.

Materials and methods: Blood donors were screened at the time of donation with an anti-treponemal rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and blood collected irrespective of the result. Units screening negative for syphilis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C were released to stock. RDT screen-positive units were re-tested with rapid plasma reagin (RPR) - units testing negative were released to stock and test-positive units discarded.

Results: Of the 2213 blood donors, 182 (8·2%; 182/2213) screened positive by RDT. In addition, 38 out of these 182 (20·9%) were RPR positive on post-donation testing. Over 2 months there was a 79% reduction in blood units discarded due to a positive syphilis screen.

Conclusion: In other LMIC, this novel strategy can contribute to improving blood safety without jeopardising blood supply.

Keywords: blood donation testing; blood safety; serological testing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Donors*
  • Donor Selection / methods*
  • Donor Selection / standards
  • Female
  • Ghana / epidemiology
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Syphilis / blood*
  • Syphilis / epidemiology*
  • Syphilis / prevention & control