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Transfusion. 2002 Jul;42(7):869-75.

NAT for HBV and anti-HBc testing increase blood safety.

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Institute of Transfusion Medicine and Immunohematology German Red Cross, Hesse, Frankfurt.



Routine HBV PCR screening of blood donations to our institutes was introduced in January 1997 to complete the NAT screening program for transfusion-relevant viruses. Testing was successively extended to customer transfusion services with a total of 1,300,000 samples tested per year.


Minipools of 96 blood donation samples were formed by automatic pipettors. HBsAg-reactive samples were included. HBV particles were enriched from the minipools by centrifugation. Conventional and in-house TaqMan PCRs were successively applied for HBV amplification. Sensitivity reached 1000 genome equivalents per mL for each individual donation. Confirmatory single-sample and single-sample enrichment PCRs were established with sensitivities of 300 and 5 to 10 genome equivalents per mL, respectively.


After screening of 3.6 million donor samples, 6 HBV PCR-positive, HBsAg-negative donations were identified. Two samples were from infected donors who had not seroconverted and four were from chronic anti-HBc-positive low-level HBV carriers. Retesting by single-sample PCR of 432 samples confirmed positive for HBsAg identified 37 donations that were negative in minipool PCR. Donor-directed look-back procedures indicated that no infected donor who had not yet seroconverted was missed by minipool PCR. However, recipient-directed look-back procedures revealed two anti-HBc-positive recipients of HBsAg-negative minipool PCR-negative, anti-HBc-positive and single-sample PCR-positive blood components. After testing randomly selected 729 HBsAg-negative minipool PCR-negative, anti-HBc-positive donors by single-sample enrichment PCR, 7 were identified with < or = 10 HBV particles per mL of donor plasma.


Minipool PCR testing after virus enrichment was sensitive enough to identify HBsAg-negative donors who had seroconverterd and HBsAg-negative, anti-HBc-positive chronic HBV carriers. HBV NAT in conjunction with anti-HBc screening would reduce the residual risk of transfusion-transmitted HBV infection.

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