BACKGROUND: Increasing concern about transfusion transmission of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease has resulted in indefinite deferral of transfused donors in France and the UK. Little is known, however, about the impact of indefinite deferral of transfused donors on blood safety and availability in the US.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Data were collected on allogeneic donations at five US blood centers during 1991 through 2000. Donation characteristics, prevalence, and incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV) were compared between transfused and nontransfused donors. Unreported deferrable risk (UDR) and reasons to donate were evaluated with data from a mail survey.
RESULTS: Transfusion history was reported by 4.2 percent of donors. Prevalence and incidence of HIV and HBV were comparable between transfused and nontransfused donors. Although HCV incidence was similar in both groups, HCV prevalence was nearly three times higher in transfused than in nontransfused first-time donors. UDR and reasons to donate were similar in the two groups, except transfused donors were less likely to donate for screening test results (odds ratio, 0.5; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-0.8).
CONCLUSION: Transfused and nontransfused donors had similar viral incidence and comparable UDR, suggesting that indefinite deferral of transfused donors would unlikely improve blood safety. Until more is known about the prevalence and transfusion transmissibility of emerging agents, indefinite deferral of previously transfused donors in the US does not appear warranted.