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Transmission of serologically silent hepatitis B virus along with hepatitis C virus in two cases of posttransfusion hepatitis


10Christian Trepo, MD, Director, Hepatitis Research Unit, INSERM U 271, 151 cours A. Thomas, 69424 Lyon Cedex 03, France.


The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to investigate the presence of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related DNA sequences in blood from three blood donors and two transfusion recipients who developed posttransfusion non-A, non-B hepatitis (NANBH). In the first case, the sole donor was positive for antibody to hepatitis B surface (HBs) and core (HBc) antigens and had elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, while the recipient had no HBV serologic markers. Both the donor and the recipient had serologic markers of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and were found positive for HBV DNA and HCV RNA sequences by PCR. The second case involved two donors and one recipient. Serologic tests for conventional HBV markers were negative in all three individuals, but one of the donors had elevated ALT. HBV DNA sequences were detected by PCR in the serum of the recipient and of the donor with high ALT, but not in the serum of the donor with normal ALT. Anti-HCV was detected in the serum of the recipient and of the suspect donor but not in that of the donor with normal ALT. The sequences amplified in the S region and determined after cloning of PCR products for both donor- recipient pairs were indistinguishable from each other and identical to the sequence of the major HBV subtype of adw in the first case and ayw in the second case. Furthermore, for the second case, an identical single-point mutation was found in both the donor and the recipient. These data confirm the transmission of conserved HBV sequences together with HCV in posttransfusion NANBH. Several explanations for the absence of detectable conventional HBV markers in these patients are discussed.

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