• donor;
  • genotype;
  • HBV;
  • HCV;
  • occult

Abstract: Background/Aim: The natural history of hepatitis-C virus (HCV) infection has been explored in volunteer blood donors, but not yet in hepatitis-B endemic areas. Whether previous or concurrent hepatitis-B virus (HBV) infection influences the natural history of HCV infection remains unknown. Thus, we followed the anti-HCV-positive blood donors who had past or concurrent HBV infection in Taiwan.

Methods: From 1992 to 1993, 1588 anti-HCV reactive volunteer blood donors were referred to us from the Taipei Blood Center and 879 (55%) repeatedly reactive for anti-HCV were enrolled. Two hundred and forty-three donors (HCV RNA seropositive rate 49% by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)) received regular follow-ups (mean period: 4.9 years) with their liver disease status determined mainly by clinical and biochemical parameters, serum alpha-fetoprotein level and imaging studies. Hepatitis-C virus genotype and occult HBV infection were determined by PCR-based assays.

Results: Of the initial 879 subjects, 250 (28%) had chronic hepatitis, nine (1%) had liver cirrhosis (LC) and two (0.2%) had hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) already. In the 243 regularly followed donors, 30% had repeatedly normal serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and 70% had more than once elevated ALT. Cirrhosis developed in four (1.6%; follow-up period range: 2–6 years) and HCC in two (0.8%; follow-up period: 3 and 4 years, respectively). Distribution of HCV genotype and hepatitis-B surface antigen (HBsAg) did not differ between those with and those without elevation of ALT. Of the 15 donors with LC and/or HCC, only 1(7%) was positive for both HBsAg and HBV DNA and the other 14 were negative for both HBsAg and serum HBV DNA.

Conclusions: Incidentally detected hepatitis-C was progressive in a small proportion of anti-HCV-positive volunteer blood donors in Taiwan. Occult HBV infection played a minimal role in the development of LC in this donor population.