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Clin Infect Dis. 2019 Mar 5;68(6):1001-1008. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciy596.

Infection Pressure in Men Who Have Sex With Men and Their Suitability to Donate Blood.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Research and Prevention, Public Health Service of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Blood-borne Infections, Sanquin Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Internal Medicine, Amsterdam Infection and Immunity Institute, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Donor Studies, Sanquin Research, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Deferral of men who have sex with men (MSM) from blood donation is highly debated. We therefore investigated their suitability to donate blood.


We compared the antibody prevalence of 10 sexually and transfusion-transmissible infections (TTIs) among 583 MSM and 583 age-matched repeat male blood donors. MSM were classified as low risk (lr) or medium-to-high risk (hr) based on self-reported sexual behavior and as qualified or unqualified using Dutch donor deferral criteria. Infection pressure (IP) was defined as the number of antibody-reactive infections, with class A infections (human immunodeficiency virus-1/2, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, human T-cell lymphotropic virus-1/2, syphilis) given double weight compared to class B infections (cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus-1/2, human herpesvirus 8, hepatitis E virus, parvovirus B19).


Donors had a lower median IP than qualified lr-MSM and qualified hr-MSM (2 [interquartile range {IQR}, 1-2] vs 3 [IQR, 2-4]; P < .001). Low IP was found in 76% of donors, 39% of qualified lr-MSM, and 27% of qualified hr-MSM. The prevalence of class A infections did not differ between donors and qualified lr-MSM but was significantly higher in qualified hr-MSM and unqualified MSM. Recently acquired class A infections were detected in hr-MSM only. Compared to blood donors, human herpesviruses were more prevalent in all MSM groups (P < .001).


IP correlates with self-reported risk behavior among MSM. Although lr-MSM might form a low threat for blood safety with regard to class A infections, the high seroprevalence of human herpesviruses in lr-MSM warrants further investigation.


blood donation; deferral policy; infection pressure; men who have sex with men


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