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BACKGROUND: The risk of hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmission by transfusion is higher than that of other blood-borne viruses. In France, before the introduction of HBV nucleic acid testing (NAT) in 2010, blood donations were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and antibodies against hepatitis B core antigen, and the residual risk of HBV transfusion related to preseroconversion acute phase was estimated at 0.54 per million donations. The additional value of the implementation of a highly sensitive HBV NAT to prevent such transmissions is discussed.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Two lookback investigations based on HBV seroconversion of repeat donors were performed. Donors and recipients were followed up in multiple samples that were tested for HBV serologic and molecular markers.

RESULTS: The recipients have shown posttransfusion HBsAg seroconversion. The archived samples from the implicated donations were positive for HBV DNA at extremely low viral load in both cases. HBV isolates from donors and recipients of each case were organized in the same cluster with 100% identities into Genotypes A2 and B4, respectively. One recipient spontaneously recovered from infection while the second was successfully treated.

CONCLUSION: The present cases highlight the importance of introducing highly sensitive HBV NAT to prevent transmission. Moreover, the lookback studies based on appropriate molecular and serologic investigations of patients transfused with previous donations from newly identified HBV-infected repeat donors offer the opportunity to treat a recently infected recipient.