Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Study examines blood donation in African migrants

blood bag 125Contrary to popular belief, a study has found that the rate of African migrants and refugees who give blood in Australia is about equal to that of the general population.

The study, involving Dr. Zoe Mcquilten (Monash Transfusion Research Unit) and A/Prof Andre Renzaho (Global Health & Society Unit) has been published by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and has also been accepted for publication in Vox Sanguinis.  The study found that while 17.2% of participants had given blood in their lifetimes, only 2.4% had donated in Australia. This is about on par with the national average, which is 2.7%.

The researchers were surprised at this result, as they hypothesised blood donation rates would be lower in African migrants and refugees. This is because there are higher levels of anaemia and haemoglobinopathies – which prevent potential volunteers from giving blood - in this group. However, this was not the case in the 483 people that participated.

It is important for the diversity of blood donors to reflect the diversity of the general population in a country, as there are slight differences in the red blood cells of people from different racial backgrounds. If someone of African descent is transfused with the blood of a Caucasian person, for example, there is a higher risk of alloimmunisation occurring – the body responding to a foreign antigen by attacking it.

Rare blood types are also more likely to be found in minority populations.

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