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Significance of screening antibodies to hepatitis B virus core antigen among Syrian blood donors


Correspondence: Wael Muselmani, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Damascus University, Damascus, Syria.

Tel.: +963 944 880035; fax: +963 11 4535064;




Hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmission via hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-negative blood donors has been reported. While many countries have implemented screening antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) to further enhance transfusion safety, HBsAg is still the only obligatory HBV screening test of blood donors in Syria.


To evaluate the significance of screening anti-HBc to reduce the risk of transfusion transmitted HBV infection in Syria.


A cohort cross-sectional prospective study included 1939 healthy blood donors assigned at the blood transfusion center of Damascus University. All donors were tested for HBsAg and anti-HBc. HBsAg-negative, anti-HBc-positive sera were further tested quantitatively for antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) and ‘anti-HBc alone’ sera were considered for HBV quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR).


Among 1913 HBsAg-negative donors, 215 (11·2%) were anti-HBc-positive including 125 anti-HBs high-positive and 59 anti-HBs low-positive donors. The remaining 31 donors were ‘anti-HBc alone’, five of which were HBV DNA-positive.


Our results suggest including anti-HBc as an additional screening test for blood donors in Syria to reduce the risk of HBV transmission. As the most cost-effective measure, anti-HBc-positive donors should be tested quantitatively for anti-HBs and only donors with no or low (<100 IU L–1) anti-HBs should be deferred.