Increased detection of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected blood donors by a multiple-antigen HCV enzyme immunoassay


Associate Professor of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Co-Director of Transfusion Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles; UCLA Medical Center Blood Bank, A4–239, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024–1713


A new, multiple-antigen enzyme immunoassay (EIA-2) for hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies was evaluated in parallel with the previously available c100-3 HCV EIA (EIA-1) in 14,068 volunteer blood donors as well as in 25 cases of transfusion-associated hepatitis C for which recipient and donor samples were available. When compared to EIA-1, the EIA-2 was more sensitive in detecting HCV-infected blood donors. The EIA-2 detected an additional 1 in 1000 EIA-1-negative, surrogate marker- negative donors who were infected with HCV as demonstrated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The specificity of the EIA-2 was comparable to that of the EIA-1, but the two tests appear to detect different populations of false-positive donors. Recombinant immunoblot assay-indeterminate donors were detected five times more frequently by the EIA-2; PCR demonstrated that 21 percent of these donors were infected with HCV. The greater sensitivity of EIA-2 was also found in 25 transfusion recipients with non-A, non-B hepatitis; however, in 16 percent of these cases of posttransfusion HCV infection, the EIA-2 failed to detect an HCV-seropositive donor. These data indicate that EIA-2 testing will significantly reduce, but probably not eliminate, the risk of transfusion-associated HCV infection; we estimate this residual per-unit risk to be 1 in 2000 to 1 in 6000 units transfused. On a national level, it is projected that the replacement of the anti- HCV EIA-1 with the EIA-2 will initially prevent up to 40 additional cases of transfusion-associated hepatitis C per day.