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Transfusion. 2009 Sep;49(9):1836-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1537-2995.2009.02203.x. Epub 2009 May 11.

First transmission of human immunodeficiency virus Type 1 by a cellular blood product after mandatory nucleic acid screening in Germany.

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Institute of Transfusion Medicine and Immunohematology, German Red Cross, and the Institute for Medical Virology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany.



In February 2007, a 63-year-old man underwent surgery. Retrospective testing with nucleic acid testing (NAT) showed that the patient was human immunodeficiency virus Type 1 (HIV-1) positive 10 days after transfusion. The transfusion-transmitted infection had been identified by a donor-related lookback started in April 2007 after anti-HIV seroconversion.


Sequence analysis was performed in the gag-pol region as well as in the V3 loop env region. Archived plasma from the transmitting donation was investigated for the individual-donation NAT with the Roche COBAS AmpliPrep/COBAS TaqMan HIV-1 test (Roche CAP/CTM HIV-1 test) and for HIV antigen/antibody combination testing (Abbott Architect). Additional testing was done on the donor's follow-up sample and on the recipient's sample.


The Roche CAP/CTM HIV-1 test failed to detect viral RNA by minipool NAT in the index donation (April 2007) as well as in the donation that caused the infection (January 2007). Phylogenetic analysis showed a very high genetic similarity among viral sequences from both donor and recipient, proving the HIV-1 transmission by sequence data.


This case represents the first documented HIV-1 transmission by transfusion of red blood cells after mandatory introduction of HIV-1 NAT for blood screening in Germany. Low viral load and mismatches in the primer/probe region might explain the detection failure of the NAT screening assay. A certain risk remains that new virus variants contain mutations at positions critical for amplification or detection of viral genomes. An option to reduce the risk of a detection failure by NAT is the simultaneous use of several conserved regions as amplification targets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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