International registries: slower growth

The international registries continue to grow, albeit at a pace slower than those seen before the pandemic. At the end of 2021*, over 41 million donors were listed in registries in 59 countries around the world.

This second year with a decline in the number of new registrations worldwide (down 12.6 per cent compared to 2020) is due in part to the Covid-19 pandemic and the curtailment of recruitment efforts associated with it in the individual countries. Other factors contributing to a slower growth rate relate to registries’ efforts to improve the quality of their donor pools: the focus on younger donors (42 per cent of all donors worldwide are under the age of 36), improved tissue typing (typing of more tissue markers and other markers) and increased measures to verify and update the data of registered persons with regard to their medical and personal availability to donate (“health and availability check”).

*WMDA Global Trends Report 2021. Due to the complexity of data collection and evaluation, the most recent figures available are those for 2021.

Global: exchange important

Overall, 42 per cent of stem cell donations are provided for a patient in another country. The situation varies from continent to continent: Europe and North America are in exchange with countries all over the world, receiving requests for blood stem cells and importing them from other continents. Thanks to the size of their registries, digital networking and proven transport systems, they are the largest blood stem cell exporters. Africa, by contrast, is highly dependent on blood stem cell donations from Europe, whereas Asia appears as a nearly self-contained system. Australia’s demand for international blood stem cell donations is greater than its capacity to supply them. The differences among the continents are due to the ethnic makeup of their populations, in addition to economic conditions.

After falling for the first time ever in 2020, the number of blood stem cell donations worldwide rose again, by 8.4 per cent, in 2021. Blood stem cells were collected for transplantation to an unrelated recipient 21,753 times in 2021 (19,623 times in 2020) and 2,498 units of cord blood stem cells (2020: 2,750) were shipped. Around 87 per cent (18,901) of collections took the form of procedures to collect peripheral blood stem cells. The other 2,852 were bone marrow collections.

Switzerland: global give and take

It is thanks to the global network of registries that patients have a good chance of finding a suitable donor. Switzerland is no exception in this regard. Currently, around 40 per cent of Switzerland’s resident population has a migrant background. The more mixed a patient’s ethnic background is, the more challenging the search for a suitable donation becomes. There is strong global demand for donations from the Swiss registry as well.

A case in point: only six of the 175 unrelated donor transplant procedures performed in Switzerland in 2022 (2021: 158) involved transplant material collected in Switzerland; three more than was the case in 2021.

The stem cells transplanted in those 175 procedures were donated by persons in a total of 18 different countries (incl. Switzerland), with Germany accounting for the most (97), followed by the USA (21) and Poland (16). These are countries that have a large number of donors in their registries.

The 89 blood stem cell donations and 4 cord blood donations made by persons in Switzerland went to Germany (15), France (10), and 15 other countries (incl. Switzerland).

2 2 16 2 1 LT 1 1 AR 1 ZA 2 RO 4 2 CY 1 1 CZ 4 3 2 2 NO 97 15 21 24 1 RS 4 8 6 6 4 2 5 5 1 BE 3 BE 2 UK 4 2 2 1 AT 3 AT 1 2 10 FI 1

Origin of products for Swiss patients 2022

Destination of Swiss products 2022