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J Viral Hepat. 1995;2(1):47-53.

Hepatitis C virus infection in the asymptomatic British blood donor.

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Liver Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK.


Blood donor screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies is now routine. Most blood transfusion services recommend that seropositive donors are referred for further investigation. Southern European studies suggest that many asymptomatic seropositive donors have clinically significant liver disease. Seropositive donors in areas of high prevalence may not, however, be representative of British donors. We have prospectively examined the prevalence and severity of HCV infection in a British volunteer blood donor population. During a 14 month period, only 0.35% (999/287,332) of all donors in the West Midlands were anti-HCV (screening assay) positive. Only 5% (52/999) of these were confirmed true seropositive. Nearly 80% (41/52) of seropositive donors were referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Liver Unit for further investigation. Most underwent complete investigation, including liver biopsy. Forty of forty-one donors had biochemical, histological, or virological evidence of persistent viral infection. Histological changes were generally mild and none was cirrhotic. Covertly infected patients had less severe disease than those with an overt risk factor for HCV exposure. In the British Midlands, the prevalence of blood donor seropositivity is low. In contrast with seropositive Southern European donors, the British donor is more likely to belong to an at-risk group for parenteral exposure and is less likely to have severe histological changes. This study highlights the importance of developing locally relevant guidelines for the counselling and investigation of anti-HCV-positive blood donors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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