Author(s): Candotti D, Allain JP
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Abstract Hepatitis B virus (HBV) remains a major risk of transfusion-transmitted infection due to the pre-seroconversion window period (WP), infection with immunovariant viruses, and with occult carriage of HBV infection (OBI). Reduction of HBV residual risk depends upon developing more sensitive HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) tests, adopting anti-HBc screening when appropriate, and implementing HBV nucleic acid testing (NAT), either in minipools or more efficiently in individual samples. HBV NAT combines the ability to significantly reduce the window period and to detect occult HBV carriage substantiating decades of clinical observation that HBsAg-negative/anti-HBc-positive blood could transmit HBV. Clinical observations suggest limited transmission rate of occult HBV compared to WP. Low transmission rate might be related to low viral load observed in OBIs or to the presence of mutants associated with occult carriage. OBIs carrying detectable anti-HBs ( approximately 50\%) are essentially not infectious by transfusion. However, recent data suggest that the neutralizing capacity of low anti-HBs may be inefficient when overcome by exposure to high viral load. Anti-HBc blood units without detectable anti-HBs appear moderately infectious except in immunocompromised recipients. Immunodeficient elderly and patients receiving immunosuppressive treatments may be susceptible to infection with lower infectious dose even in the presence of anti-HBs. The immune status of blood recipients should be taken into consideration when investigating "post-transfusion" HBV infection. Pre-transfusion testing and post-transfusion long-term follow-up of recipients, and molecular analysis of the virus infecting both donor and recipient are critical to definitively incriminate transfusion in the transmission of HBV.
This article was published in J Hepatol
and referenced in Journal of Infectious Diseases & Therapy