Innovative Blood Transfusion Strategies for Blood Deserts in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Nakul Raykar, Harvard Medical School
Vanitha Raguveer
, Harvard Medical School  

Millions die of hemorrhage each year in settings across the world without access to sufficient blood for transfusion. There is a 114-million-unit yearly blood shortage in low- and middle-income country (LMIC) blood banks; every single country in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has a deficit. In many rural settings, hundreds of millions live without access to any blood; the only hospitals with stocked blood banks are usually hours away in the urban center. We call these regions “blood deserts”: areas of the world where there is no real access to blood transfusion. For decades, LMIC governments have been working to extend the safety and efficiency of their blood systems, but the traditional system of blood banking is logistically complex, expensive, and simply unavailable in the world's poorest settings. Without a paradigm shift in approach, millions will continue to die of hemorrhage in the world’s blood deserts each year. Fortunately, emerging technologies such as civilian walking blood banks, intraoperative autotransfusion, and drone-based blood delivery offer hope. However, little is known as to the appropriateness of these technologies or the barriers to prioritization and implementation in the remote, low-resource environments typical of blood deserts.

This seminar will bring together experts in global health, transfusion medicine, public policy, and industry to define (and expedite) a much-needed research and implementation agenda.