Challenges of Establishing a National Rare Donor Program in Iran

  • Behrooz Ghezelbash Laboratory Hematology & Blood Bank, Blood Transfusion Research Center, High Institute for Research and Education in Transfusion Medicine, Tehran, Iran
  • Mostafa moghaddam Head of Department of Immunohematology, Blood Transfusion Research Center, High Institute for Research and Education in Transfusion Medicine, Tehran, Iran
  • Sima Aghazadeh Ardabil University of Medical Sciences, Ardabil, Iran
Keywords: Rare blood program, Rare blood type, Rare donor


Background: Over the past decades, interest in establishing a National Rare Donor Program has increased significantly worldwide. The experience of developing countries, however, is still limited. Rare blood is defined as a blood group found in a 1000- 5000 population and donor has an absence of a high-prevalence antigen, or the absence of multiple common antigens. Iranian national rare donor program was established in 2009. This paper reports the experiences and challenges of establishing a national rare donor program in Iran.Materials and Methods: This program provides services to all medical centers that need rare units. The main role of rare donor program is to maintain information of rare donors that are identified at the immunohematology reference laboratory located in Tehran. Good manufacturing practices and standard operating procedures are utilized to all activity. The IRL secures frozen blood to make them available when rare blood is required.Results: As many as 1000 different types of rare donors have been identified in Iran, including several individuals whose blood group had developed clinically significant allo-antibodies. In addition to routine donors' personally identifiable information such as addresses and telephone numbers, we also access to the contact information of their close relatives or friends for emergency situation. Contact data are kept up to date at least twice annually. IRL staff are ready to provide services to patients with rare blood types, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.  To date, more than 80 donors with very rare blood group are listed on the IRL rare donor database in 31 centers. Current practice at IRL is to screen the first and second-degree relatives of any patient found to have a rare blood type for a matching blood donor. Iranian blood services need to establish special departments to provide rare blood RBCs and technical assistance for a quicker and more efficient responses to patients and request of their medical staff for blood transfusion. To achieve this aim, there were several challenges, including situation analysis and justification of the program, allocation of financial support by top managers, engineering and technical maintenance, facility and environmental services, employee awareness and communication between blood centers, technologist training in advanced immunohematology.Conclusion: The results of this survey are encouraging and indicate that the information and database for rare donors will provide services to patients with very difficult and complex serology test results requiring rare blood transfusion. The experience of IRL may be helpful for other transfusion centers in developing countries. 


Future. Vox Sang. 2002; 83 Suppl 1:95-7.

Nance ST. How to find, recruit and maintain rare blood donors. Curr Opin Hematol. 2009; 16(6):503-8.

Woodfield G, Poole J, Nance ST, et al. A review of the ISBT rare blood donor program. Immunohematology. 2004; 20(4): 244–8.

Moullec J. The National Index of rare typc donors. Transfusion. 1966; 9(2): 163-6.

Mourant AE. The establishment of the International Panel of Rare Blood donors. Vox Sang. 1965; 10: 129-32.

Sazama K. Reports of 355 transfusion associated deaths: 1976 through 1985. Transfusion. 1990; 30(70: 583-90.

Lockwood WB, Hudgens RW, Szymanski IO, et al. Effects of rejuvenation and frozen storage on 42-day-old AS-3 RBCs. Transfusion. 2003; 43(11): 1527-32.

Garelyn M, Cynthia F, Catherine M. The American Rare Donor Program. J Crit Care. 2013; 28(1):110.e9-110.e18.

Barbee IW, Richard AH. The 2011 National Blood Collection and Utilization Survey Report. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington DC: US; 2011.p. 55-59.

Flickinger C. In search of red blood cells for alloimmunized patients with sickle cell disease. Immunohematology. 2006; 22(3): 136-42.

Goodell PP, Uhl L, Mohammed M, et al. Risk of hemolytic transfusion reactions following emergency-release RBC transfusion. Am J Clin Pathol. 2010; 134(2): 202-6.

Seltsam A, Wagner FF, Salama A, et al. Antibodies to high-frequency antigens may decrease the quality of transfusion support: an observational study. Transfusion 2003; 43(11): 1563-6.

Meny G. Review: transfusing incompatible RBCs—clinical aspects. Immunohematology. 2004; 20(3): 161-6.

Petz LD. “Least incompatible” units for transfusion in autoimmune hemolytic anemia: should we eliminate this meaningless term? A commentary for clinicians and transfusion medicine professionals. Transfusion. 2003; 43(11): 1503-7.

How to Cite
Ghezelbash B, moghaddam M, Aghazadeh S. Challenges of Establishing a National Rare Donor Program in Iran. ijhoscr. 12(3):212-8.
Original Article(s)