Background: Cases of transfusion-transmitted malaria have been described around the world and highlighted in some studies. Semi-immune individuals are more likely to transmit malaria as they may be asymptomatic. Some countries allow blood donations only based on epidemiological criteria while others reinforce their criteria with serological tests. However, little is known about the longevity of anti-Plasmodium spp. antibodies and its meaning in blood donation. Therefore, this study aims to assess the longevity of different subclasses of anti-Plasmodium spp. antibodies in individuals with previous stays in endemic areas, as well as to assess how those antibodies are related to personal features and travel characteristics. Based on those results, the suitability of the Portuguese blood donors screening method was addressed, i.e. the method to search for an eventual risk of transfusion-transmitted malaria among the population studied. Results: Statistical associations were found between the presence of total anti-Plasmodium spp. antibodies and some travel characteristics, namely to be born in endemic area versus non endemic and previous episodes of malaria. The intersection between seropositive results and the last year of stay in endemic areas showed a longer longevity of anti-Plasmodium spp. antibodies than previously reported. Those results represented a considerable portion of the individuals having returned from their last stay in endemic areas more than 10 years before enrolment in this study. Considering the study population as potential blood donors, serological results also indicated that if epidemiological criteria alone were applied to screen blood donors, an important percentage of seropositive individuals would be approved for blood donation. Because the nature and meaning of those antibodies in the blood donation context is still not understood, those approved individuals could represent a risk for blood transfusion safety. Conclusions: The place of birth and past episodes of malaria seem to be related to the serological outcome. Epidemiological criteria to screen potential blood donors are insufficient to guarantee the safety of the blood, if applied alone.
- Anti-Plasmodium spp. antibodies
- Blood transfusion
- Plasmodium spp.