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Hepatitis B Virus Identified by Nucleic Acid Testing

Last Updated: January 19, 2011.

Triplex nucleic acid testing detected potentially infectious, non-seroconverted hepatitis B virus, HIV, and hepatitis C virus DNA in blood donations, according to a study published in the Jan. 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Triplex nucleic acid testing detected potentially infectious, non-seroconverted hepatitis B virus (HBV), HIV, and hepatitis C virus DNA in blood donations, according to a study published in the Jan. 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Susan L. Stramer, Ph.D., from the American Red Cross in Gaithersburg, Md., and colleagues performed nucleic acid testing on 3.7 million blood donations, and evaluated those that were HBV DNA-positive but negative for hepatitis B surface antigen and hepatitis B core antigen. The serological, biochemical, and molecular features of the samples were analyzed. Donors who tested positive for seronegative HIV and hepatitis C were also included in the analyses.

The researchers identified nine donors who were positive for HBV DNA, six of whom had received the HBV vaccine. Four donors may have acquired the infection from a chronically infected sexual partner. Five out of six of the vaccinated donors had a non-A genotype as the dominant HBV strain, whereas subgenotype A2 (used in the vaccine) was the dominant strain in unvaccinated donors. In total, 75 reactive nucleic test results were identified in seronegative blood donations: nine were positive for HBV, 15 for hepatitis C, and two for HIV.

"This study showed a higher-than-expected rate of HBV infection with the use of triplex nucleic acid testing, mainly in donors who had been vaccinated against HBV and who would not have been identified by routine screening for hepatitis B surface antigen or hepatitis B core antigen," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial support from pharmaceutical companies.

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