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Abstract

Of 10,633 blood donations tested in three regional blood transfusion centres with two commercial first generation screening assays for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), 65 (0.61%) were found to be repeatedly reactive in one or both assays. Five of the 65 were confirmed positive by recombinant immunoblot assay (Ortho RIBA-2) and a further 4 were judged indeterminate. All 5 RIBA-2 positive donations and 1 of the 4 RIBA-2 indeterminates were shown to be viraemic by HCV-RNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays performed at three independent reference laboratories. The remaining 56 screen test reactive donations proved negative by RIBA-2 and, with 1 exception, negative by PCR. We conclude that while first generation anti-HCV screening assays generate a high proportion of false reactions when screening low prevalence populations, results of the RIBA-2 confirmatory test correlate well with PCR findings and thus indirectly with both hepatitis C viraemia and infectivity.