BACKGROUND : Tick-borne diseases, particularly babesiosis and ehrlichiosis, represent recently emerging infections. Despite an increased recognition of the threat tick-borne agents pose to blood safety, our understanding of the prevalence and transmissibility of these agents in blood donors is limited.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS : Babesia microti and Anaplasma phagocytophila (previously Ehrlichia sp.) seroprevalence was determined in random Connecticut and Wisconsin donors, and subsequently in Connecticut donors reporting tick bites. In the interim, a postcard survey regarding tick bites during the previous 6 months was sent to 6000 random donors in six geographically distinct collection regions.
RESULTS : In total, 3 of 999 Wisconsin donors (0.3%) and 6 of 1007 Connecticut donors (0.6%) had antibodies to B. microti. Of 992 donors tested for A. phagocytophila, 5 Wisconsin donors (0.5%) and 35 Connecticut donors (3.5%) were seropositive. A total of 2482 donors (41.4%) completed the survey; 103 (4.1%) reported a tick bite. Of 848 Connecticut donors (0.4%) reporting tick bites, 3 had B. microti antibodies, while 8 (0.9%) had A. phagocytophila antibodies. These rates were not significantly different from control donors.
CONCLUSION : Blood donors seropositive for B. microti and A. phagocytophila are present in Connecticut and Wisconsin. Donors readily recall previous tick bites, but self-reported bites are not reliable indicators of serologic status. The exposure of blood donors to tick-borne pathogens does suggest a need to better understand the transfusion transmission potential of these agents.