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Transplantation. 2006 Nov 15;82(9):1210-3.

High seroprevalence of anti-HTLV-I/II antibodies among solid organ donors necessitates confirmatory testing.

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  • 1National Institute of Transplantation, Los Angeles, CA 90057, USA.



Human T-cell lymphotrophic virus (HTLV) type I has been linked to adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL) and HTLV-I associated myelopathy (HAM). Transmission of HTLV by blood and organ transplantation has been documented, with some infections leading to clinical disease. Organ donors are tested for anti-HTLV antibodies and donor suitability is determined primarily by results from enzyme immunoassays (EIA). Confirmatory testing is not routinely performed, and the number of false positive organ donors is unknown.


In order to investigate the contemporary seroprevalence of anti-HTLV I/II antibodies among solid organ donors and determine the number of false positive samples, we tested 1,408 specimens from prospective organ donors in 2002 and 2003. All specimens were tested for anti-HTLV antibodies by a commercial EIA. Repeatedly reactive specimens underwent confirmatory testing using a commercial Western blot.


There were 22 repeatedly EIA reactive donor specimens (1.56%). Five specimens did not undergo further testing because of case shutdown or insufficient sample quantity. HTLV I/II western blot confirmed six positives, whereas five were negative and six were indeterminate. The majority of confirmed specimens were positive for antibodies to HTLV-II.


Our data shows that 29% of initially reactive specimens were false positives. With the increasing demand for organs, the unnecessary rejection of organs that are falsely positive for HTLV antibodies becomes of tremendous importance and stresses the need for timely confirmatory testing for HTLV.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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