The impact of donor cytomegalovirus DNA on transfusion strategies for at-risk patients


Address reprint requests to: Malte Ziemann, Institute of Transfusion Medicine, University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein, Ratzeburger Allee 160, 23538 Lübeck, Germany; e-mail:



Cytomegalovirus (CMV) DNA is frequently detected in plasma of newly seropositive donors. Selection of leukoreduced blood products from donors with remote CMV infection could avoid transfusion-transmitted CMV infections (TT-CMV) due to primarily infected donors. However, there are no data about the prevalence of reactivations in long-term seropositive donors compared to the incidence of window period donations in seronegative donors. Therefore, the optimal transfusion strategy for at-risk patients is unclear.

Study Design and Methods

Whole blood samples from 22,904 donations were tested for CMV DNA, and CMV DNA–positive donations were categorized as donations from 1) seronegative donors, 2) newly seropositive donors, and 3) long-term seropositive donors.


Twenty-one donors were reproducibly CMV DNA–positive (0.09%). Frequency of detection and concentration of CMV DNA in whole blood were comparable for seronegative and long-term seropositive donors. Nonreproducibly positive results for CMV DNA in whole blood were more frequent in long-term seropositive donors (0.16% vs. 0.01%, p < 0.01). Only low concentrations of CMV DNA in plasma were detectable in two seronegative donors and one long-term seropositive donor. Highest concentrations of CMV DNA in both whole blood and plasma, however, were found in newly seropositive donors.


Prevalences of window period donations among seronegative donors and reactivations among long-term seropositive donors, as well as the CMV DNA concentration in whole blood and plasma samples from these donors, are comparable. Therefore, blood products from both groups could be used for patients at risk for TT-CMV, while those of newly seropositive donors seem to bear an increased risk.