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Australian-led program to compile world-first corneal donation data

13/03/2019By Myles Hume
An Australian-led project run by the Global Alliance of Eye Bank Associations (GAEBA) will collate the world’s first international data set on corneal transplantation, donation and use from this year and beyond.

In doing so, the GAEBA is now the first human tissue organisation to commence collection of annual global statistics, with plans to publish inaugural figures by the end of 2020.

It is hoped the data will assist health authorities, eye care providers, eye bankers and international development experts with strategies for the future need, use and inter-country movement of corneal donations.

Melbourne-based GAEBA representatives Ms Heather Machin and Dr Graeme Pollock – from the Eye Bank Association of Australia and New Zealand, which is one of six GAEBA member orgainsations – are leading the project.

“We will be able to identify which nations are locally self-sufficient, who is exporting and importing, and which countries are without donation or transplant services.”
Heather Machin, GAEBA

“Right now, we do not have access to global rates regarding corneal transplantation, donation or utility,” Pollock said.

“This means the sector, its members, end-users (surgeons and researchers) and the wider eyecare community, is unable to develop effective strategies to plan for the long-term need of human tissues for transplant, training and research, nor do they have adequate data to commence conversations with legislative and governing bodies or build new partnerships with those outside of the sector.

“We would like to change that, to ensure all members of the sector and community have access to adequate data.”

The project was inspired by the World Health Organisation’s ‘Guiding Principles’ to provide an orderly, ethical and acceptable framework for the donation, recovery and transplantation of human tissues, as well as cells and organs.

Machin said: “We are fortunate in Australia to have a robust data collection and outcome registry system already in place between our ophthalmologists, eye banks and organ and tissue organisations, meaning we are able to effectively manage donations for transplantation. Unfortunately that is not universal, and there is limited data available to assist many other nations.”

She said a 2012 study indicated some 12.7 million people worldwide could benefit from a corneal transplantation, many whom are located in countries without their own eye banks. This resulted in a reliance on overseas countries, predominantly the US, Sri Lanka and Italy, who have additional donations to share.

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“Every nation will benefit from this project because we will be able to identify which nations are locally self-sufficient, who is exporting and importing, and which countries are without donation or transplant services for their waiting recipients. This will help the sectors determine need going forward,” she said.

The project will provide annual de-identified data at a national level, without the need to identify eye banks, surgeons or hospitals. The GAEBA will not provide analysis, but will simply present the raw data.

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