Risk factors for hepatitis C virus infection in United States blood donors



Injection drug use (IDU) is a known risk factor for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but the strength of other parenteral and sexual risk factors is unclear. In 1997, we performed a case-control study of 2,316 HCV-seropositive blood donors and 2,316 seronegative donors matched on age, sex, race/ethnicity, blood center, and first-time versus repeat-donor status. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated using conditional logistic regression. Questionnaires were returned by 758 (33%) HCV+ and 1,039 (45%) control subjects (P = .001). The final multivariate model included only the following independent HCV risk factors: IDU (OR = 49.6; 95% CI: 20.3-121.1), blood transfusion in non-IDU (OR = 10.9; 95% CI: 6.5-18.2), sex with an IDU (OR = 6.3; 95% CI: 3.3-12.0), having been in jail more than 3 days (OR = 2.9; 95% CI: 1.3-6.6), religious scarification (OR = 2.8; 95% CI: 1.2-7.0), having been stuck or cut with a bloody object (OR = 2.1; 95% CI: 1.1-4.1), pierced ears or body parts (OR = 2.0; 95% CI: 1.1-3.7), and immunoglobulin injection (OR = 1.6; 95% CI: 1.0-2.6). Although drug inhalation and a high number of lifetime sex partners were significantly more common among HCV seropositives, they were not associated with HCV after controlling for IDU and other risk factors. IDU, blood transfusion among non-IDU, and sex with an IDU are strong risk factors for HCV among United States blood donors. Weaker associations with incarceration, religious scarification, being stuck or cut with a bloody object, pierced ears or body parts, and immunoglobulin injection must be interpreted with caution.