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Arch Intern Med. 1993 Oct 11;153(19):2261-6.

Significance of isolated hepatitis B core antibody in blood donors.

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Department of Pathology, Tucson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, AZ.



About 25% of blood donors who test positive for antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) have no other positive hepatitis B serologic results. Because of the potential importance and diagnostic uncertainty of this test result, we studied its significance by assessing the serologic response to hepatitis B vaccine in donors with an isolated anti-HBc pattern.


Specimens from 300 blood donors that were positive for anti-HBc by enzyme immunoassay were tested for anti-HBc by radioimmunoassay and for antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs). A subgroup of 37 were further studied after administration of hepatitis B vaccine and compared with 34 similarly vaccinated age- and sex-matched seronegative controls. Measurements of anti-HBs were made at vaccination and 1, 2, 4, 8, 25, and 30 weeks after initial vaccination.


Among 300 donors who tested positive for anti-HBc by enzyme immunoassay, the radioimmunoassay for anti-HBc was negative in 76 (25.3%) and the test for anti-HBs was negative in 104 (34.7%). Significant differences were observed for radioimmunoassay anti-HBc and anti-HBs titers, alanine aminotransferase, and male-female ratios between four distinct serogroups (A through D) defined by the combination (positive/negative) of radioimmunoassay anti-HBc and anti-HBs results. No significant differences between the study and control groups were observed in the magnitude of anti-HBs responses at any of the six postvaccine testing periods.


Isolated anti-HBc in US blood donors is usually a false-positive result, regardless of the titer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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