Specialised services

Molecular R&D


SANBS is a leader in offering state of the art genotyping technology for Human Leucocyte Antigen (HLA), Red Blood Cell (RBC) genetic analysis and more recently for human platelet antigen (HPA) characterisation. Through continuous development and innovations SANBS recently introduced red blood cell genotyping of 11 blood group systems including the RHCE gene in one test. A major part of molecular research and development is the evaluation of new reagents/techniques and platforms including next generation sequencing (NGS) suitable for the South African environment. An improved genotyping assay has also been introduced for genotyping of platelet donors and patients who require matched-platelets and for platelet disorder investigations. Molecular R&D assisted resolving complex serological phenotyping cases and confirmation of rare phenotypesusing molecular methods such as the BAGene assay for specific blood group systems.

Major Impact

Molecular genetic testing has been validated for the detection of the most common chromosome aneuploidies. This will provide a 24 to 48 hour turnaround time. SANBS has also introduced the next generation sequencing (NGS) on the Illumina platform. This sequence is primarily used for resolving complex HLA typing cases and creation of the South African HLA database. The introduction of high definition HLA typing to facilitate a higher number of organ donor recipient matches and cadaveric transplants. The NGS platform will also provide more detailed genetic analysis of rare and unusual RBC groups and in this way contribute to building the rare donor data base.

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Immunohematology is more commonly known as “blood banking”. It is a branch of haematology that studies antigen-antibody reactions and analogous phenomena as they relate to the pathogenesis and clinical manifestations of blood disorders. SLS IMH and the Reference laboratory provide testing support to Operations for cases that cannot be resolved at Blood Bank level.

Support testing

SANBS also provides support testing to the internal operations for the provision of safe blood and blood products.
Confirmatory tests for the Donation Testing Department on blood groupings, Rh typing, irregular antibody screens or alloagglutinin titration tests are required.
Additional support testing is carried out for the investigation of instances where patients have suffered an untoward reaction to blood and/or blood products:  in patient samples where compatible blood cannot be easily found  in donor samples, and for the  provision of compatible blood when patients have red antibodies.

Antenatal testing

This testing is node to determine the presence of obstetrically significant antibodies in order to manage and prevent haemolytic disease in newborns.

NBI testing support

Testing of immunoglobulin products is done for the National Bioproducts Institute (NBI). The immunisation of donors and harvesting of anti-D immunoglobulin is also carried out.

Provision of rare blood

SANBS participate in the international register for rare blood groups and provide support locally and internationally.

Reagent production

The blood service carries out reagent production and distribution of blood grouping reagents for all SANBS laboratories, National Health Laboratory Services, private pathology companies and the SADC region.

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Tissue Immunology and Genetics


Transplants & HLA testing

The focus of SANBS tissue immunology testing is centred in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. This testing, which supports solid organ and bone marrow transplantation, includes HLA typing, HLA antibody testing and CDC cross-matching.Tissue Immunology also offers High Resolution HLA Testing , performed by Next Generation Sequencing Methodology

SANBS assists the South African Bone Marrow Registry by conducting the testing for HLA which is a vital step in the bone marrow transplant process. Limited
HLA testing for disease association is also available.



HLA class I typing of donors and patients is done to facilitate requests for patients who require HLA-matched platelets. Human platelet antigen and antibody (HPA) testing is also carried out for patients with platelet disorders.



SANBS conducts cytogenetic testing for chromosomal abnormalities in prenatal and postnatal cases for Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Cytogenetic studies aid in the diagnosis of women whose pregnancies are at increased risk for chromosome abnormalities e.g. Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, etc. and in the diagnosis of newborns and children with congenital abnormalities.

Testing can be performed on amniotic fluid, peripheral blood and solid tissue.

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