Open Access Open Badges Commentary

Sufficient blood, safe blood: can we have both?

Halvard Bönig*, Michael Schmidt, Kai Hourfar, Jörg Schüttrumpf and Erhard Seifried

Author Affiliations

German Red Cross Blood Service Baden-Württemberg-Hesse and Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Immunohematology of the Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany

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BMC Medicine 2012, 10:29  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-29

Published: 23 March 2012


The decision in September 2011 in the UK to accept blood donations from non-practicing men who have sex with men (MSM) has received significant public attention. Will this rule change substantially boost the number of blood donations or will it make our blood less safe? Clearly, most European countries have a blood procurement problem. Fewer young people are donating, while the population is aging and more invasive therapies are requiring more blood. Yet if that was the reason for allowing non-practicing MSM to donate, clearly re-admission of some other, much larger populations that are currently deferred from donation should likewise be considered. As far as risks for blood safety are concerned, evidence has been provided that the current quality of infectious disease marker testing significantly mitigates against, although does not completely eradicate, risks associated with admission of donors with a high risk of carrying certain blood-transmissible agents. However, it could be argued that more effective recruitment of the non-donor pool, which is substantially larger than the group of currently ineligible donors, would be a better strategy. Recruitment of this group will benefit the availability of blood without jeopardizing the current excellent safety profile of blood.

blood safety; blood consumption; MSM; donor deferral; donor retention; donor recruitment