Filariasis and transfusion-associated risk: a literature review

International Society of Blood Transfusion TTID Working Party Parasite Subgroup

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background and objectives: Filariae are parasitic worms that include the pathogens Loa loa, Onchocerca volvulus, Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia spp. and Mansonella spp. which are endemic in parts of Africa, Asia, Asia-Pacific, South and Central America. Filariae have a wide clinical spectrum spanning asymptomatic infection to chronic debilitating disease including blindness and lymphedema. Despite successful eradication programmes, filarial infections remain an important –albeit neglected – source of morbidity. We sought to characterize the risk of transfusion transmission of microfilaria with a view to guide mitigation practices in both endemic and non-endemic countries. Materials and methods: A scoping review of scientific publications as well as grey literature was carried out by a group of domain experts in microbiology, transfusion medicine and infectious diseases, representing the parasite subgroup of the International Society of Blood Transfusion. Results: Cases of transfusion-transmitted filariasis are rare and confined to case reports of variable quality. Transfusion-associated adverse events related to microfilariae are confined to isolated reports of transfusion reactions. Serious outcomes have not been reported. No known strategies have been implemented, specifically, to mitigate transfusion-transmitted filariasis yet routine blood donor screening for other transfusion-transmissible infections (e.g. hepatitis B, malaria) may indirectly defer donors with microfilaremia in endemic areas. Conclusion: Rare examples of transfusion-transmitted filariasis, without serious clinical effect, suggest that filariasis poses low transfusion risk. Dedicated mitigation strategies against filarial transfusion transmission are not recommended. Given endemicity in low-resource regions, priority should be on the control of filariasis with public health measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVox sanguinis
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • blood transfusion
  • epidemiology
  • filariasis
  • public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology

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