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Blood. 2002 Oct 1;100(7):2637-41.

Frequency and load of hepatitis B virus DNA in first-time blood donors with antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, University of L├╝beck, Germany.


The objective of this study was to determine the frequency and load of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA in anti-HBc-positive first-time blood donors; it was designed to contribute to determining whether anti-HBc screening of blood donations might reduce the residual risk of posttransfusion HBV infection. A total of 14 251 first-time blood donors were tested for anti-HBc using a microparticle enzyme immunoassay; positive results were confirmed by a second enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). For the detection of HBV DNA from plasma samples, we developed a novel and highly sensitive real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. The 95% detection limit of the method amounted to 27.8 IU/mL, consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO) international standard for HBV DNA. A total of 216 blood donors (1.52%) tested anti-HBc-positive in both tests, and 205 of them (16 HBsAg(+), 189 HBsAg(-)) were tested for HBV DNA. In 14 (87.5%) of the HBsAg-positive blood donors, HBV DNA was repeatedly detected, and in 3 (1.59%) of the HBsAg-negative donors, HBV DNA was also found repeatedly. In the 3 HBV DNA-positive, HBsAg-negative cases, anti-HBe and anti-HBs (> 100 IU/L) were also detectable. HBV DNA in HBsAg-negative as well as HBsAg-positive samples was seen at a low level. Thus, HBV DNA is sometimes found in HBsAg-negative, anti-HBc-positive, and anti-HBs-positive donors. Retrospective studies on regular blood donors and recipients are necessary to determine the infection rate due to those donations. Routine anti-HBc screening of blood donations could probably prevent some transfusion-transmitted HBV infections.

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