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BACKGROUND: An estimate of the rate of HBV DNA-positive, anti-HBc-positive units is important for evaluating the need for anti-HBc donor screening, especially in the context of HBV NAT.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: HBsAg EIA-nonreactive, anti-HBc-reactive (Corzyme, Abbott Laboratories) specimens were retrieved from a repository and were retested for anti-HBc (with PRISM HBcore, Abbott Laboratories, currently under FDA review) and anti-HBs (with PRISM Ausab, Abbott Laboratories, research assay). HBV DNA testing using a PCR assay with a greater than 95 percent detection rate of less than 50 copies per mL was performed on a subset of specimens that were PRISM HBcore-reactive and were anti-HBs- negative or reactive at less than 100 IU per L.

RESULTS: A total of 395 of 1231 specimens eligible by our serologic criteria were tested by PCR. Four anti-HBs-negative specimens were PCR-positive with estimated HBV DNA copy numbers of 10 per 30 copies per mL in two specimens and 50 to 100 copies per mL in two others. The HBV DNA detection rate in anti-HBs-negative specimens was 3.7 percent, and the projected rate among all Corzyme-reactive specimens was 0.24 percent, leading to an estimated yield of 1 HBV DNA-positive, anti-HBc-positive unit in 49,000 units that were otherwise eligible for transfusion (95% CI, 1 in 16,600-1 in 152,600).

CONCLUSIONS: Anti-HBc screening detects HBsAg EIA-negative, HBV-infected donors at a rate comparable to the estimated residual risk for HBV window-period infections. The low viral load in the HBV DNA-positive samples suggests that minipool NAT will not detect most potentially infectious units from anti-HBc-positive donors.