Canadian blood suppliers: An expanding role in public health surveillance?

Basically, the authors of this paper advocate for the increased role of Canada's two primary blood services agencies, Hema-Quebec and Canada Blood Services, in public health surveillance. Because of the way these arms-length agencies operate, they can potentially play a critical role in the monitoring of an increasing number of human pathogens through screening blood donations and sharing that data with researchers. There have been several studies in recent years in which blood agency data has been used to help public health professionals get an indication of prevalence amongst the donating public for several pathogens, including the tick-borne virus Babesia microti. Part of the appeal of this kind of using these blood agencies in this way is that Hema-Quebec and Canada Blood Services receive donations from across the breadth of Canada from ostensibly healthy citizens mostly between the ages of 17 and 72, which would give them a large sample demographic. They also collect blood almost every single day, screen that blood for specific pathogens, and collect data through questionnaires that can be keyed to each sample. All of this allows public health professionals to track disease that can be asymptomatic, including several of the tick-borne illnesses.