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Boosting organ donations through lifesaving screening

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15th November, 2023

NSW Health Pathology’s Nucleic Acid Testing Laboratory has won a NSW Premier’s Award for a unique collaboration that provides 24/7 screening of donor organs for infectious diseases.

The team was last night pre­sent­ed with the NSW Premier’s Award for High­est Qual­i­ty Health­care.

When it comes to organ dona­tion, tim­ing is everything.

The abil­i­ty to screen donor organs for infec­tious dis­eases and com­pat­i­bil­i­ty in just a few hours means the dif­fer­ence between life and death for patients await­ing transplant.

With a short­age of organs, more types of donors are being accept­ed fol­low­ing devel­op­ment of new screen­ing meth­ods for infections.

Only one team in NSW does this life­sav­ing work: the NSW Organ and Tis­sue Dona­tion Ser­vice (OTDS) and the NSW Health Pathol­o­gy Nucle­ic Acid Test­ing (NSWHP NAT) Lab­o­ra­to­ry at Prince of Wales Hos­pi­tal in Sydney.

Our ded­i­cat­ed clin­i­cal pathol­o­gists, lab­o­ra­to­ry sci­en­tists and dona­tion spe­cial­ists work a 24/7 ros­ter to respond when­ev­er a donor organ becomes avail­able, deliv­er­ing results with­in a crit­i­cal 8‑hour timeframe.

The lab now tests around 150 organ trans­plant donors – includ­ing 50 high-risk donors – and 650 tis­sue donors each year, ensur­ing safer, healthy organs for transplant.

The team pro­vides viro­log­i­cal screen­ing for pathogens impor­tant in trans­plan­ta­tion, including:

  • Human Immun­od­e­fi­cien­cy Virus type 1 (HIV‑1)
  • Hepati­tis B (HBV)
  • Hepati­tis C (HCV)
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Tox­o­plas­ma, and
  • Strongy­loides.

There are approx­i­mate­ly 1,650 peo­ple on organ trans­plant wait­ing lists in Aus­tralia at any one time. For these chron­i­cal­ly ill peo­ple of all ages, access to a viable organ and tis­sue donor can lead to a longer, health­i­er life.

Cur­rent­ly there are more patients on trans­plan­ta­tion lists than there are avail­able organ and tis­sue donors. This was com­pound­ed dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic which saw a 30% decrease in transplants.

But num­bers are increas­ing to pre-pan­dem­ic lev­els and high­er now with con­cert­ed dona­tion dri­ves led by DonateLife and the NSW Organ and Tis­sue Dona­tion Service.

The small but ded­i­cat­ed team is com­mit­ted to help­ing more peo­ple requir­ing trans­plants to access safe organ and tis­sue dona­tions and to sav­ing lives.


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