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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 100-101

Epidemiology of syphilis in blood donors in Pakistan

1 Safe Blood Transfusion Programme, Ministry of National Health Services, Government of Pakistan; Department of Pathology and Transfusion Medicine, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, PIMS, Islamabad, Pakistan
2 Peshawar Regional Blood Centre, Department of Health, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
3 Department of Biological Sciences, International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan

Date of Submission01-Dec-2019
Date of Decision27-Jan-2020
Date of Acceptance10-Feb-2020
Date of Web Publication17-Apr-2020

Correspondence Address:
Usman Waheed
Safe Blood Transfusion Programme, Ministry of National Health Services, Government of Pakistan; Department of Pathology and Transfusion Medicine, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University, PIMS, Islamabad
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/GJTM.GJTM_69_19

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How to cite this article:
Waheed U, Saba Ne, Wazeer A, Arshad M, Zaheer HA. Epidemiology of syphilis in blood donors in Pakistan. Glob J Transfus Med 2020;5:100-1

How to cite this URL:
Waheed U, Saba Ne, Wazeer A, Arshad M, Zaheer HA. Epidemiology of syphilis in blood donors in Pakistan. Glob J Transfus Med [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Apr 16];5:100-1. Available from: https://www.gjtmonline.com/text.asp?2020/5/1/100/282745


Syphilis is a bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum and is among the most common sexually transmitted infection around the globe. Although the transmission is mainly sexual, syphilis can also be spread through contaminated blood and blood components.

According to the WHO, 6.3 million new cases of syphilis occur every year, of which 90% are found in low-income countries.[1]

Syphilis is a major public health concern around the globe. Its significance is aggravated by the fact that the risk of contracting HIV infection through sexual contact is increased 3–5 times in individuals with syphilis infection.[2]

Population-based seroprevalence data of syphilis are imperative to guide mitigation strategies. Therefore, through the Safe Blood Transfusion Programme, a country-wide retrospective descriptive study of syphilis prevalence was conducted from January to December 2018. Data from 606 blood banks across the country comprising 2,449,308 blood donations were analyzed for the epidemiology of syphilis. The screening technique used by each blood bank varied and included rapid immune chromatographic technique (n = 460), rapid plasma regain test (n = 79), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (n = 15), and chemiluminescence immunoassay (n = 52). A total of 17,652 (0.72%) blood donors were reactive for syphilis.

Our findings were on the higher side when compared with studies from developed countries, including Saudi Arabia[3] (0.044%), Italy[4] (0.031%), USA[5] (0.16%), and Israel[6] (0.047%). However, countries from the African continent have reported a very high prevalence among blood donors, for example, Angola[7] (20.0%), Nigeria[8] (3.1%), and Burkina Faso[9] (1.5%). When compared with earlier studies from Pakistan (3.1%,[10] 1.55%,[11] 2.1%,[12] and 0.91%[13]), the national prevalence is on the lower side.

Some studies have demonstrated that syphilis spirochetes are fragile and cannot survive blood bank's refrigerator temperature when kept for a minimum of 72 h.[14] However, this survival time could depend on the number of infectious agents initially present in the donated blood. Similarly, platelet concentrates are typically kept at 22°C–24°C, so carry a higher risk of spreading syphilis. Therefore, the screening is a must in all cases.

In Pakistan, under the blood safety legislation, syphilis screening is mandatory. This was for the first time that credible statistics generated on the epidemiology of syphilis in the blood donor population across the country. The national strategies[15] to lessen the risk of syphilis transmission are the use of behavioral screening questionnaires to defer donors at higher risk of infection and testing the blood with highly sensitive and specific laboratory techniques.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Report on Global Sexually Transmitted Infection Surveillance 2018. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Available from: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/stis-surveillance-2018/en/. [Last accessed on 2019 Oct 24].  Back to cited text no. 1
Kassutto S, Sax PE. HIV and syphilis coinfection: Trends and interactions. AIDS Clin Care 2003;15:9-15.  Back to cited text no. 2
Elyamany G, Al Amro M, Pereira WC, Alsuhaibani O. Prevalence of syphilis among blood and stem cell donors in Saudi Arabia: An institutional experience. Electron Physician 2016;8:2747-51.  Back to cited text no. 3
Drago F, Cogorno L, Ciccarese G, Strada P, Tognoni M, Rebora A, et al. Prevalence of syphilis among voluntary blood donors in Liguria region (Italy) from 2009 to 2013. Int J Infect Dis 2014;28:45-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kane MA, Bloch EM, Bruhn R, Kaidarova Z, Murphy EL. Demographic determinants of syphilis seroprevalence among U.S. blood donors, 2011-2012. BMC Infect Dis 2015;15:63.  Back to cited text no. 5
Vera L, Milka D, Nurith SL, Eilat S. Prevalence and incidence of syphilis among volunteer blood donors in Israel. J Blood Transfus 2014;2014:154048.  Back to cited text no. 6
Quintas E, Cogle AC, Dias CC, Sebastiao A. Prevalence of Syphilis in Blood Donors in Angola from 2011 to 2016. Clin Med Rep 2018;2:1-4. [doi: 10.15761/CMR.1000119].  Back to cited text no. 7
Okoroiwu HU, Okafor IM, Asemota EA, Okpokam DC. Seroprevalence of transfusion-transmissible infections (HBV, HCV, syphilis and HIV) among prospective blood donors in a tertiary health care facility in Calabar, Nigeria; An 11 years evaluation. BMC Public Health 2018;18:645.  Back to cited text no. 8
Bisseye C, Sanou M, Nagalo BM, Kiba A, Compaoré TR, Tao I, et al. Epidemiology of syphilis in regional blood transfusion Centres in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Pan Afr Med J 2013;16:69.  Back to cited text no. 9
Nazir S, Pracha HS, Khan A, Nazar A, Fayyaz A, Khan MS, et al. Prevalence of syphilis in Pakistani blood donors. Adv Life Sci 2013;1:27-30.  Back to cited text no. 10
Saeed M, Hussain S, Rasheed F, Ahmad M, Arif M, Hamid Rahmani MT. Silent killers: Transfusion transmissible infections-TTI, among asymptomatic population of Pakistan. J Pak Med Assoc 2017;67:369-74.  Back to cited text no. 11
Arshad A, Borhany M, Anwar N, Naseer I, Ansari R, Boota S, et al. Prevalence of transfusion transmissible infections in blood donors of Pakistan. BMC Hematol 2016;16:27.  Back to cited text no. 12
Sultan S, Murad S, Irfan SM, Biag MA. Trends of venereal infections among healthy blood donors at Karachi. Arch Iran Med 2016;19:192-6.  Back to cited text no. 13
Adegoke AO, Akanni OE. Survival of Treponema pallidum in banked blood for prevention of syphilis transmission. N Am J Med Sci 2011;3:329-32.  Back to cited text no. 14
Safe Blood Transfusion Programme, Pakistan. National Blood Policy and Strategic Framework 2014-20. Available from: http://sbtp.gov.pk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/nbp-nsf-2014-20-final-2.pdf. [Last accessed on 2019 Nov 02].  Back to cited text no. 15


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