Retrospective Analysis of Blood Transfusion Recipients: Evidence for Post-Transfusion Hepatitis E


Dr (Mrs) V.A. Arankalle, Assistant Director, Head, Hepatitis Division, National Institute of Virology, Indian Council of Medical Research, 20–A, Dr Ambedkar Road, Pune 411001 (India), Tel. +91 20 627 301, Fax +91 20 622 669, E-Mail


Background and Objectives: Of 200 volunteer blood donors we had screened earlier for hepatitis E virus (HEV) RNA, using reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, 3 were positive, raising the possibility of transfusion-associated hepatitis E in areas endemic for this virus. This retrospective study was to reassess the extent of post-transfusion hepatitis E among transfusion recipients, investigated in 1982. Materials and Methods: We re-evaluated 56 recipients followed biweekly for 3 months after transfusion. The controls were 51 normal, healthy persons who gave blood at a 2-month interval, as well as 412 blood donors from whom blood was taken once in 1982. Results: Of the 56 transfusion recipients, 19 were positive for lgG antibodies against HEV (anti-HEV) in the pretransfusion sample. Two of the 37 lgG anti-HEV-negative recipients seroconverted to lgM and lgG anti-HEV 5 and 4 weeks after transfusion, 1 with raised serum alanine aminotransferase levels. None showed symptoms of hepatitis. Attempts to detect HEV RNA in transfused blood, from aliquot units stored at −20°C for over 17 years, were not successful. Of the controls, 17 out of 51 were lgG anti-HEV positive in the initial sample itself. None of the 34 lgG anti-HEV-negative controls seroconverted during the 2-month follow-up. Of the blood donors, 154 out of 412 were lgG anti-HEV positive. None of the 412 donors had circulating lgM anti-HEV antibodies. A significantly higher (p<0.03) proportion of susceptible transfusion recipients were lgM anti-HEV positive as compared with susceptible blood donors. Conclusion: The results suggest that, in countries where HEV is endemic, the transmission of hepatitis E may be associated with blood transfusion.