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Infusionsther Transfusionsmed. 1994 Dec;21(6):368-75.

[HIV retrospective study of the German Red Cross blood donation service in Germany].

[Article in German]

Author information

  • 1Abteilung Transfusionsmedizin, Universität und DRK-Blutspendezentrale Ulm.



It was tried to retrospectively identify HIV infections in recipients of transfusions from donors who were tested HIV positive at a subsequent donation. These lookback data were traced back to answer the following questions: 1. How many transfusion recipients were infected before the start of the routine HIV testing in 1985? 2. How great is the risk of HIV infections from infected but not yet HIV antibody-positive donors? 3. Furthermore, the transfusion of HIV-infected transfusion recipients was traced back to the involved donor to establish causality.


Retrospective ('lookback') study.


HIV Study Group of the Red Cross Blood Banks of the Federal Republic of Germany.


Preceding donations of HIV antibody-positive repeat donors were traced back to the transfusion recipients in order to establish their HIV antibody status. In a second lookback study, HIV-infected transfusion recipients and their corresponding donors were investigated after they had been reported to the blood bank as infected by transfusion-associated HIV.




Recipients of 156 respectively 133 transfusions from repeat donors found to be Western blot-positive were investigated from 1985 to 1987 and from 1987 to 1992, respectively. About 50% of the recipients had died. About 40% of the recipients could not be examined, because they either were not available for testing or refused to be tested or because it was impossible to clarify the fate of the blood products. 25 HIV recipients were identified from 1981 to 1985, when routine HIV testing began. Nine transfusion-associated HIV infections were identified from 1985 to 1992. 25 million units of blood were prepared during this period.


The risk of HIV transmission by tested transfusions is extremely rare (in the order of 1:1 million). The second lookback study suggests that in more than 50% of the blood recipients in whom HIV infection was attributed to transfusion, a causal relationship to an infected donor could not be established.

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